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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 Julianne Grillo at 10:22PM
Photo: Cornell Lab/Eric Liner

Blog posting written by Julianne Grillo, Writing for Film, TV, and Emerging Media ’20, Honors, FLEFF Blogging Intern, Clinton, NJ

Human impact presents itself everywhere.

Scientists say that we live in “the era of the human,” or Anthropocene. Nothing left untouched.

Depending on your perspective, these impacts can be interpreted either positively or negatively. But recognizing their existence is important in this era, according to a local filmmaker and curator for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF).

Karen Rodriguez is an experienced documentary filmmaker, producer, and former Ithaca College professor. She has worked as a key member of the FLEFF team for years. 

After studying film as both an undergraduate and graduate student, Rodriguez embarked on an impressive, wide-ranging career as an independent media maker. Her work has screened at festivals around the world.

Rodriguez describes FLEFF as an “intimate experience for the audiences.” 

As opposed to other, larger festivals she has attended, FLEFF’s programming is easier to navigate and the content is not screened competitively. Instead, she believes FLEFF offers a “unique and independent spirit."

Years ago she began working with Dr. Patricia Zimmerman, the co-director of FLEFF, to develop the Upstate Filmmakers Showcase.

The program has evolved. It no longer focuses on shorts. According to Rodriguez, the shift to long-form projects and documentaries now concentrates on one filmmaker and their film for an evening.

Now, programs feature more quality time with the filmmakers and more engagement with the often heavy material. A stark contrast to talk-backs with ten or twelve different filmmakers.

“FLEFF is a great supporter of new media makers,” Rodriguez said.

The Upstate Filmmakers Showcase brings work from regional filmmakers into the public realm and into conversation with other media makers. FLEFF-goers can expect two extremely engaging films at this year’s festival, according to Rodriguez.

“Both Upstate films have heavy topics, but the films are engagingly made and the stories are well-told,” she said. “I think people will really enjoy them.”

One explores an American woman’s discovery of her family’s roots through the ruins of a house in Poland. The other presents the issue of human influence on the most endangered raptor in the world, the Philippine Eagle.

The latter particularly interests Rodriguez. Produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and director Eric Liner, Bird Of Prey analyzes human impact on the environment. The feature documentary addresses the role of birds as indicators of the world’s health.

Working with the Lab of Ornithology for the past five years, Rodriguez documents the scientific work related to species of birds and the sustainability of their habitats.

“Their health, populations and migration pattern can help people understand [the changes] that are happening in the environment,” she explained.

Experiencing the plight of the most endangered raptor in the world will force audiences to consider our human impact and the consequences it can have on animals and the environment.

Rodriguez believes studying geographies is about understanding those human interactions on the landscape:

“It is about understanding the impact of living in the Anthropocene and the potential of catastrophic devastation,” she explains.

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