Film Festival Spotlights
for a Greener World
THE OFFERINGS at the nonprofit Environmental Film Festival, an event unfolding this month in the nation’s capital, cast a wide net. The
180 productions from 42 countries scheduled to be
screened tell diverse tales, some of them offbeat.
Subjects include the life and struggles of a nomadic
reindeer herder in the Artic Circle; Scottish home
owners who oppose Donald Trump’s plan to build a
golf course on wilderness land; and a family seeking
to protect the California condor.
The goal is to harness the power of film to promote
understanding of the environment. “These are not
films shown in the local cineplex,” says Flo Stone, the
Now in its 20th year, the festival has come a long
way since Ms. Stone started it with a $25,000 award
from the Golden Rule Foundation, in Brooklyn, N. Y.
Back then people thought environmental films con
sisted of nature scenes set to Muzak, says Ms. Stone.
She has worked steadily to change that image by
showcasing a broad swath of films that encompass
architecture, artists, and activists, including Wan
gari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who en
couraged the planting of millions trees in her native
Kenya. Films spotlighting major contemporary is
sues, including last year’s Japanese tsunami and the
BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, also have a place.
“We want to take people around the world and
have them hear and see and experience voices and
places and people they wouldn’t have access to other
wise,” says Ms. Stone.
More than 30,000 people are expected to attend
one of the free or lowcost screenings held at muse
ums, embassies, libraries, movie theaters, and else
where around the city. Directors or producers from
more than half of the offerings—including the docu
mentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who has a new film,
“The Dust Bowl”—will discuss their work.
About half of the group’s $630,000 budget comes
from foundations. The organization also receives sup
port from government, corporations, and individuals.
Just as important as the screenings blitz is the fes
tival’s Web site, dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org, which
gives the films a global audience, says Ms. Stone. She
hopes school groups might browse the site and find
films to show their students.
“We want to awaken people to the vital importance
of the environment,” she says.
Here, Scott Tinker, a geoscientist at the University
of Texas at Austin, interviews Gudmundur Fridleifs
son, Iceland’s chief energy geologist, in a geothermal
pool, for the documentary “Switch,” which follows Mr.
Tinker as he travels to the world’s major energy sites
to explore the shift from oil and coal to energy alter
natives. —NICOLE LEWIS