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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 12:02AM
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~~Blog post written by Thomas Ball, Cinema and Photo 18’, Shelton, CT.

I learned the most important aspect of film festivals from my experiences as an intern and from my directors at FLEFF. Mainly, film festival programming does not happen quickly, and does not occur in a vacuum.

In order to properly schedule events and screenings, the programming of a festival needs to begin over a year in advance. For the directors and programmers of FLEFF, the selection of films to screen comes from observing market festivals such as the Berlinale.

To make sure that the films screened at FLEFF reflect current issues, the directors look at a film’s release window and how far the film traveled so far on the festival circuit.

The optimal window the directors look for spans between one and a half to two years. For example, the film For Ahkeem premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in early 2017, then traveled the film festival circuit at locations like the Tribeca Film Festival and the St. Louis Film Festival.

The film speaks to current issues in the United States such as the school to prison pipeline, the history of redlining, and racially segregated communities.

Exceptions to this rule include the screening of Entrelos Hielos De Las Islas Orcada (1929). The film, screened with live orchestration by the Cloud Chamber Orchestra, features a rare look at the South Pole as shot by Argentinian documentarians.

However, even films from the silent era speak to events occurring now.

The spacial geography and landscape of Antarctica looks radically different now than it did one hundred years ago. Massive ice flows break off from the southern tip of Argentina and Chile more regularly than ever.

Screening the film now creates a rare site of discussion related to environmental decisions made by powerful political figures.

If the highest political office in the United States does not consider climate change legitimate, the images of a dissolving South Pole must affect him much differently than those who live right next to it.

The film festival environment creates a space where discussions on international issues can occur. As such, American conceptions of political orientations such as liberal and conservative do not apply.

The origins of the film festival come from international film associations finding alternatives to the dominant Hollywood film mode. Early organizations such as the London Film Society founded in 1925 and the Brazilian Chaplin Club in 1928 formed in order to, “expand the possibilities of cinema” and provide narratives adjacent to American filmmaking .

The theme of geographies implies distance and expansion. The films screened at FLEFF come from across the world and represent intersecting perspectives. Inside the festival space these perspectives can continue to move along the international festival circuit.

The festival space acts as a site of passage for the films screened and the guests invited. Moving through the festival circuit allows important actors in the film industry the chance to increase their presence in the international space.

As discussed in a previous FLEFF blog, these actors include the press that attends the festivals. I learned since then that actors in the film industry include festival programmers, distributors, agents, managers, along with filmmakers and film talent.

In short, film festivals act as the center that all activity in the film industry revolves around.

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