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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Blog posting written by Kristen Reid, FLEFF Intern, Cinema and Photography '21
The mission of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival is to bring awareness to sustainability through art and conversation. If you had asked me what that meant a month ago, I would have told you that meant you could find films or documentaries that relate to sustainability from a variety of unique points of view. Through this opportunity to be a festival blogger, I’ve learned just how wrong that simple understanding of the festival was.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last month is how deeply interdisciplinary this festival is, both in showcased content as well as its organization. By working through the Provost’s office, FLEFF is able to incorporate faculty and ideas from every school at Ithaca College into its programming.
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival is not just for film majors or movie buffs, but rather is a week of interdisciplinary programming that emphasizes the connections between the environment and every other aspect of our lives and tries to bring as many people together as possible. As Assistant Provost of International Programs and Extended Studies Dr. Tanya Saunders told our cohort of bloggers, “film is only one form of expression”.
Connected to this interdisciplinarity, is the fact that film festivals, in general, are inherently political. The most prolific film festivals today are now known to be a marketplace for distribution and funding for films but historically, festivals have always had political roots.
For example, the Venice Film Festival was founded in 1932 by Mussolini in an attempt to regain Italy’s former dominance in the film industry. He recognized the ability film has to spread ideas and used it to his advantage by funding and giving exposure to propaganda films that agreed with his ideologies.
Today, film festivals are still deeply political, sometimes giving marginalized groups a safe space to come together, like queer curated festivals, or sometimes simply amplifying voices less often given the platform to reach mass audiences. While this festival does follow a mission some would read as political, I have learned to see the FLEFF itself as apolitical.
When we assign environmental awareness to any particular political or ideological group, we are ignoring that the environment is a human issue. This distinction is important to make and is one of the key elements of that allows FLEFF to stand out when compared to other festivals that may have a similar theme or mission statement.
Prior to diving in deep with the other bloggers, I had no idea how expansive FLEFF is beyond the town of Ithaca. Reiterating from above, the environment affects us all, so it is no surprise that filmmakers and artists from all around the world come together at FLEFF. For one busy week a year, Ithaca serves a worldwide hub for environmental awareness. In prior years, FLEFF has brought collaborators in from across South America, Asia and Europe. Beyond international filmmakers, Ithaca College hosts a group of predoctoral fellows each year that come from universities across the country to bring their own, diverse experiences to FLEFF.
Perhaps the aspect of FLEFF that I’ve most enjoyed learning about is how much collaboration goes into curating the festival. Each week, the bloggers meet up with Co-director Dr. Patricia Zimmermann to discuss programming and other festival happenings but in addition, three of the sessions have started with interviews with a FLEFF collaborator.
We’ve gotten the chance to talk to three inspiring women, including Dr. Saunders; Dr. Janet Galvan, Ithaca College Director of Choral Activities; and Barbara Adams, an IC writing professor. By introducing us to a few of those who help her, Dr. Zimmermann has emphasized how many people work together to make FLEFF possible. In addition to the women we’ve had the chance to talk to, we’ve read and discussed many essays written by other IC faculty members who help FLEFF thrive. The festival is rooted in interdisciplinary studies so it is only fitting that the festival survives through collaboration.