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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 Thomas Ball at 11:45PM
Dr Tanya Saunders

Blog posting by Thomas Ball, Film, Photography, Visual Arts, 18’, FLEFF Intern, Shelton, Connecticut.


Q & A: Dr. Tonya Saunders


This past Tuesday at the weekly FLEFF Intern Seminar, Dr. Tanya Saunders visited the session gave us an extended meeting. Originally, Dr. Saunders had scheduled for the meeting to last 45 minutes of her time, but that quickly expanded to well over an hour and a half. In addition to this meeting she also gave time to give a follow up interview the following Thursday, answering additional questions about her role in FLEFF and the programs running during the festival.

Dr. Saunders presides as the Assistant Provost of International Programs at Ithaca College in addition to her role in FLEFF as Executive Producer. When asked what this particular job meant for the festival, Dr. Saunders explained that her job included advocacy for FLEFF as well as choosing which interns participate. Dr. Saunders also explained that she has the responsibility of preparing the budget for the festival, solving any issues that may arise from budget constraints.

When I asked what kind of problems the budget could cause, the conversation turned to the topic of the FLEFF Fellowship program. The program invites doctorate students of color to the festival in order to participate in the events of the festival, facilitating a dialogue between the students and guest speakers. Six to Ten students would be accepted to the program, participating in events such as the FLEFF lab, which happens on the Friday of FLEFF from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M.. Originally, students from around the country would receive invitations to the event, but in recent years due to budgetary and logistical constraints, the festival tries to source the fellows from the east coast. Dr. Saunders referred to sourcing fellows from Cornell in order to get the most engaged students while spending within the limits of the budget.

Heterogeneity remains as one of FLEFF’s key ideals, valuing a mosaic of different issues pertaining to a sustainable environment. Dr. Saunders explained that heterogeneity allows for the festival to have timeliness, such as sourcing films from Brazil in response to the outbreak of the Zeka virus. The films may not have direct relation to the specifics of the virus or how it initially spread, or how to contain it, but having films from that area facilitates dialogues that lead to answering those questions.

When asked what her favorite part of FLEFF was, Dr. Saunders responded by citing the concert held on the Tuesday of FLEFF. However, she quickly followed this by saying that she enjoys all of FLEFF, recommending the lectures and readings held on Monday, the installation projects on Wednesday and the films screened on Thursday and Friday. Dr. Saunders stressed in her interviews that the festival invites more than just film scholars, citing her background in literature and language. However, Dr. Saunders does cite the Chinese film Touch of Sin as a recent favorite of hers screened at FLEFF. Dr. Saunders also notes that the festival’s scope expands outside of film. Notably, this year’s FLEFF has the distinction of having University of Buffalo professor Paul Vanouse as the opening speaker, where he will discuss his work in biotech artistry. FLEFF provides a cross section of different works from different mediums, giving evidence to support Dr. Saunders’ thesis that it is, “...more than a film festival”. 


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