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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Edward Willshire at 8:56PM
Headshot of Edward Willshire

Introducing FLEFF Blogging Intern, Edward Willshire.

My family rallied around each other after my mother passed away in 2003. Distractions don’t work for long and there aren’t words that exist in a six-year-old’s vocabulary that can effectively explain the gravity of what happened. Getting a child to understand that they will never see their mother again is not an enviable task.

My family – but mostly my father – accomplished this as fully as possible by taking an indirect route, and in doing so sparked a passion of mine that has continued to grow from those memories.

Our family movie nights began primarily to get us together in one room – focused on a single thing that wasn’t my mother. The arguments that spun out of what movie to watch, what to eat, and when my brother and I were supposed to fall asleep were much needed to keep us from noticing the change in the daily dynamic of our home.

Without my mother we lost our routine, but these weekly movie nights sewed together our new family unit.

And soon enough it all became about the films. We would alternate each week choosing the movie, but eventually started tying together weeks. We worked our way through the James Bond and Star Wars franchises over several weeks. Sometimes the night was dedicated to the hilarious library of films from the Marx Brothers.

Other weeks we would watch a classic and its remake for comparison, like a night with both the original 1933 King Kong and it’s 2005 remake by Peter Jackson. Then maybe a quick viewing of the original Mighty Joe Young to see how other giant ape films are done.

Through these Friday nights I was learning to love film from all eras, but more importantly, I saw first-hand the value in a methodical approach to reading cinema.

It may have just been an attempt to get me to think about the adventures in Jason and the Argonauts rather than my heavy loss, but my father also provided me my own at-home film library. One I could pop into every week for a mini-programming run that would last one-three films and show me parts of the craft or history that I hadn’t seen before.

Once I was in high school, I knew visual media, but primarily film, would be my lifelong love. When I was 16, I was honored by the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey for a short film I made. This was my first festival experience. It wasn’t like being in a multiplex – sharing the experience with strangers only to walk out immediately as the credits begin to roll.

The air felt different. It reminded me much more of my Friday nights with my father and brother. There was conversation about each film, even if they were only 3-5-minute shorts made by children. There was active interest in every choice made and conversation started. I knew when I left that I had to keep following that energy.

When I became a student at Ithaca College (IC) that part was easy. FLEFF was presented by Dr. Zimmermann to my class as something even more robust and intellectual than I could’ve hoped for. I leapt at the opportunity to attend the festival and participate directly in any way I could.

My freshman year at IC I became a FLEFF Fellow. I attended the festival and learned about the unique history that follows it. I immersed myself completely in the culture of engagement that was so vividly felt in each screening I attended. It was something I’m glad I found because, looking back on my life, it was something I had always sought to create for myself.

Now three years later, I have the privilege to work directly within FLEFF all over again. The theme this year, Disruptions, is thematically fitting for my personal journey that has brought me here for the second time. The greatest disruption I have ever and will ever feel in my life is what led me to start watching films with a purpose.

I am anxious to see how the collection of works shown at FLEFF this year will spur conversation. How films interact with their audience, but also each other, is always more interesting to me than viewing a film in isolation. A text or work of art, be it literature, film, or even interactive new media, does not exist in a vacuum – and I have my father to thank for showing me that every Friday growing up.

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