This year the Environmental Film Festival celebrates a major milestone: 20 years of advancing environmental understanding through the power of film. As the first film festival devoted to the full range of environmental topics, the Environmental Film Festival was a novel idea when Flo Stone founded it in 1993. While 1,200 people attended the inaugural Festival, today the Festival has expanded to become the nation’s largest showcase of environmental film, attracting an audience of over 30,000. Beyond Washington, D.C., the Festival has launched a movement, serving as a model for environmental film festivals across the country and around the world.
The 20th anniversary Festival, our largest and most ambitious yet, presents 180 engaging and thought-provoking films, including 93 Washington, D.C., United States and World premieres, from 42 countries. A centerpiece of our 20th anniversary year is a retrospective of the work of Academy Award-nominated director Lucy Walker, who will screen her latest film, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, and receive the Festival’s Polly Krakora Award for artistry in film.
Another highlight is an appearance by iconic filmmaker Ken Burns, who will present a sneak preview of his new documentary, The Dust Bowl. The Festival kicks off opening night with Switch, a film about transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. The Festival closes with a selection fresh from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet, capturing the history of the environmental movement in the United States.
Growing awareness of the critical role that the environment plays in human health has inspired the theme of the 20th anniversary. The water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe are all essential to human life. The effects of toxins and pollutants on the human life support system can be disastrous to our health. Our films address the complex relationship between health and the environment with the warning that whatever we do to the environment we do to ourselves.
What happens when this warning is ignored is shown in the film, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, exposing the U.S. Marine Corps’ cover-up of water contamination at Camp Lejeune, N.C. that resulted in a record number of cancer cases. The overriding importance of water to life on earth is highlighted in Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu’s Last Call at the Oasis, identifying the global water crisis as the central issue facing our world in this century. Ideas for equitably sharing the scarce water of the Colorado River are offered in James Redford’s Watershed, a World premiere, introduced by his father, Robert Redford.
The connections between food and health are explored in the film, In Organic We Trust, which takes a first-hand look at the organic food industry. Filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia presents the World premiere of Symphony of the Soil, examining the key role of healthy soil in creating nutritious food. Additional heath-related films highlight the aftermath of the BP oil spill, the dangers of nuclear power, the impact of the built environment and the effects of climate change.
ARAL: THE LOST SEA (Spain, 2011, 25 min.) Directed by Isabel Coixet.
United States Premiere Once the world’s fourth-largest inland body of water, the Aral Sea is now a notorious example of ecological calamity. Retreating over the last 50 years after the rivers that fed it were diverted for Soviet cotton irrigation projects, today it covers half of its original area and its water volume has been reduced to a quarter, transforming the climate of the region. The tainted water that remains has led to chronic illness, with climbing infant mortality rates and skyrocketing bronchitis and liver cancer. The international community was unaware of these changes until satellite images from NASA revealed the extent of the disaster in 2003.
Narrated by Ben Kingsley. Directed by Isabel Coixet.
Introduced by Guillermo Corral, Cultural Counselor, Embassy of Spain.
Discussion with Carbon for Water filmmakers Evan Abramson and Carmen Elsa Lopez and Margot Stiles, Senior Scientist and Campaign Manager, Oceana, follows screenings.
Site: 20º Enviromental Film Festival, Washington
Event: Aral: The Lost Sea
Place: Carnegie Institution for Science
Country: United States of America
Date 18 March 2012