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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 Kimberly Capehart at 11:56AM
Dr. Tanya Saunders, Executive Producer, FLEFF

Blog posting by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, New Jersey 

Dr. Tanya Saunders is an important woman. 

In addition to working tirelessly in the International Studies department and on the Martin Luther King Scholar Program at Ithaca College, she currently holds the position of Assistant Provost at the college: making her the fourth highest-ranking provost at Ithaca College, and also the highest-ranking woman. 

However, Dr. Saunders' passion, enthusiasm, and expertise extend far beyond the world of administration and management. She also holds the title of Executive Producer for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival; her eleventh year in the position. 

Saunders was named Executive Producer when the festival relocated from Cornell University to Ithaca College in 2005. Along with the obvious struggles associated with relocating a film festival, FLEFF also underwent a great deal of change, particularly expansion, in terms of its programming content, mission, and approach to environmentalism.

First of all, "we have broadened our view on what 'the environment' means," says Dr. Saunders. She notes that when the festival moved campuses, she and Drs. Zimmermann and Shevory, the festival programmers, decided to adopt the UNESCO definition of sustainability, which challenges them and others to conceive of the term 'environment' in new and exciting ways. 

"FLEFF is about investigating and understanding the social, political, economic, and historical situation and context of the environment," says Saunders. Though this definition may be shocking for some, remember that the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival is one of only fifteen environmental film festivals in the world! 

Since its beginning days, FLEFF has grown to embrace the ethos of the most internationally-acclaimed festivals. Challenging hegemonic understandings of both the environment as well as film festivals, FLEFF has incorporated lectures, music performances, readings, discussions, intimate screening opportunities, and, most famously, silent film/live music commissions. 

Though it was not always such a cutting edge festival. Dr. Tanya Saunders notes that the festival has had "to consider new technological advancements" and incorporate them into the FLEFF lineup. 

For example, in the last eleven years, FLEFF has endured the overwhelming shift from analog to digital media: known as the digital conversion. In fact, the 16th Annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, in 2013, greatly helped to keep local, independent theater, Cinemapolis, from going dark as it undertook the mission of converting all of its projectors to digital models. 

"I think FLEFF has really introduced the idea of a multimedia presence, where you can incorporate film, music, and statement all in one presentation," adds Saunders. 

Now, in her eleventh year as the Executive Producer of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Dr. Tanya Saunders is looking forward to this year's theme of HABITATS. A short summary of the definition is included on the shocking red and bright teal posters that have started to make their away across the Ithaca College campus; it reads:

"Environments inhabited, evolving from internal dynamics and external challenges. Boundaries that unhinge in constant flux." 

In this sense, Dr. Tanya Saunders inhabits a very important place in a very important habitat in her role as Executive Producer. 

If there is anything that can be said about the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, it is that the festival a HABITAT and an environment all its own. It is constantly changing and  evolving as a result of its social, political, economic, and historic situation, as suggested by Dr. Saunders.

As part of its role as a habitat, it, too, can change others. Again, Dr. Saunders is an embodiment of these wonderful changes. She graciously sits before a team of bloggers, ready to share her vast knowledge about film festival operations, but yet still manages to remain open-minded, observant, and thoughtful the entire time. 

Check back next week for the second part of Dr. Tanya Saunders' profile and to read the insightful advice she has shared for those who will be attending the festival. 

How has FLEFF changed you? How has it changed your understandings, assumptions, and preferences? 

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