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An Invitation to the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

"FLEFF 2009: The Virtual and The Real"
A message from Tanya R. Saunders, dean, Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) 2009 offers all of us the opportunity to explore, within the safe zones of the virtual and academic, the challenges and dangers we must prepare to confront in the real and interrelated experiences of all life forms.

The Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies (DIIS) invites you to enter the virtual realm that FLEFF has created for you, not only for its own sake, but for the new opportunities it provides for intellectual growth, meaningful engagement, and for constructive action. We cordially invite you to bring your ideas, your proposed solutions, your questions, and your commitment as FLEFF 2009 embarks upon a consideration of a "different environment."

The Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies is proud to serve as the major sponsor and intellectual home of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival because FLEFF allows us to throw off imaginative constraint; to move across disciplines, schools, and communities; and to engage with each other on the pressing issues of our times. FLEFF creates both virtual and real spaces for the dynamic interaction of a diverse array of people, at home and abroad, and for the free expression of a diversity of ideas and art forms as they pertain to the human and environmental condition.

Always crossing boundaries and borders, FLEFF posits that the environment is not confined to nature, but is a dynamic system of interlocking layers comprised of the social, the aesthetic, the political, the intellectual, and, yes, the natural world. As its newly fashioned 2009 trailers for theaters and YouTube contend, FLEFF proposes "a different environment" in all senses of the term.

FLEFF 2009 is taking place during one of the most challenging economic environments of recent memory. The economy is demonstrating for all of us, in very real terms, the reach of globalization and its impact, for good or ill, on all facets of our lives -- whether our focus is the safeguards to the environment, war, hunger, poverty, access to higher education, credit and debt, employment, support of the arts and technology, or the manipulation of investment portfolios. As a result, the implications of global citizenship have become too immediate for many of us.

Our 2009 programming streams -- syncopation, spice, toxins, and trade -- are catalysts for global relationships that test our intellect, creativity, and ethical underpinnings and underscore Ithaca College's mission and vision. As FLEFF 2009 supports the institutional commitment to character development, it invites individual and community engagement with what it means to be a global citizen acting in a global economy. By facilitating community-wide shared experiences and fostering intellectual engagement with real problems, FLEFF 2009 is demonstrating the power of the liberal arts, acting in concert, to discover practical solutions to what are increasingly global considerations.

This year, the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies has introduced three one-credit courses, designed by Professor Gordon Rowland, to build an active and progressively advanced experiential learning environment that connects liberal arts thinking to professional training for our 100 competitively selected festival interns. The interns were chosen from across the College campus -- across schools and majors, from first-year student to senior. These interns constitute a vital part of our FLEFF staff. As this year's FLEFF consultant and Ithaca College alumna has observed, "the interns are the festival."

You are the festival, too. FLEFF, a gathering of people, ideas, and art forms, creates a virtual commons on campus, in the community and on the web, that embodies the local and global at this moment in time; this time demands greater intellectual engagement, greater imagination, and greater understanding of the challenges ahead so that we can move from the virtual arid abstract towards a course of constructive action in real terms.

FLEFF, the virtual commons, dissolves vertical hierarchies and advances horizontal discussion, debate, and investigation; FLEFF helps us to join the larger international conversation about what global citizenship requires of us. I encourage you to enter the virtual space, "the FLEFF zone," and to immerse yourself in the immediately real.

Originally published in : An Invitation to the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.