Monday, May 23, 2011

"The Environmental Film Festival" from VOA.

I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Bob Doughty with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. The Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., has been bringing movies to America's capital for seventeen years. This year, the twelve-day festival showed more than one hundred and thirty movies from thirty-four countries.

The movies were shown in fifty-two museums, embassies, and other places around the city this month. Many movies were about the state of the world's oceans and sea life. The aim of the festival is to educate people about environmental issues affecting our planet.


MOVIE: "After feeding the world for hundreds of years, we showed our gratitude by nearly wiping cod off the face of the earth. Today, the species is on the verge of extinction. And for the fisherman of Aveiro, the consequences have been devastating."

That was from the movie "The State of the Planet's Oceans" made by Hal and Marilyn Weiner. Its first public showing took place during the film festival at the National Museum of Natural History. The movie tells about the effects of overfishing on local economies and on the health of the oceans. The movie also shows how climate change is threatening this ecosystem. In a striking closing scene, the ocean expert Sylvia Earle talks about the importance of protecting the beautiful world that lives under the sea.

We asked audience member James Edwards how watching a movie about the environment can affect people.

JAMES EDWARDS: "I think a film like this can make a difference by raising people's awareness of not only the problems that are out there, because a lot of films are gloom and doom, but solutions that are out there. What are other people doing, what can you do?"

Mr. Edwards is an independent filmmaker in Washington, so he is very interested in the work that other people are doing. And, he says the subject of oceans interests him especially because he has been scuba diving since he was a child.

The Museum of Natural History showed many other movies about the ocean. These included "Fisheye Fantasea" which explores how fish see in the ocean. "Cracking the Ocean Code" is about the work of scientist J. Craig Venter. In the movie he travels around the world documenting the genetic information of small sea creatures.

At the Library of Congress, festival visitors could watch "The Silent World" directed by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle. When this movie came out in nineteen fifty-six, it was the first to show scuba diving exploration to the world. The movie takes place during a trip across the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.


The Environmental Film Festival in Washington was started by Flo Stone. We asked her what gave her the idea to begin this event.

FLO STONE: "I founded the festival in nineteen ninety-three. I'd worked on other film festivals, one on cultural diversity at the Natural History Museum in New York City. But in Washington, I thought it would be wonderful to do a festival on the environment very broadly, cooperating with many museums, universities, libraries, environmental organizations and even embassies from around the world."

Ms. Stone says the National Museum of Natural History asked if this year's festival could pay special attention to the subject of oceans.

FLO STONE: "What is happening in the ocean films, of course, is the technology is so phenomenal. You can film the deepest parts of the ocean. You can track a shark that swims from Australia all the way to southern Africa and back. So, the ocean theme has been extremely popular and exciting."

Not all movies at the festival were about oceans. One movie shown at the National Building Museum is called "Designing a Great Neighborhood: Behind the Scenes at Holiday." It tells about building a community housing project in Boulder, Colorado. The future owners of the houses work together with different building designers to create environmentally safe houses that do not pollute.

MOVIE: "When solar panels supply both hot water and space heating, the goal of zero emissions begins to look achievable."

The neighbors consider choices including solar energy, clean water and plantings.

The movie gives an interesting lesson in how city communities can come together to build healthy and safe housing that is not costly.

Several movies at the festival examined trash in different parts of the world. "Cartoneros" was shown at the Embassy of Argentina.

Its director, Ernesto Livon-Grosman, was there to introduce his film. The movie is about trash pickers who collect paper in the streets of Buenos Aires. Then they sell the paper to sorting centers who prepare trash for recycling.

The movie shows many people criticizing the work of the cartoneros. But in a country that was suffering a major recession, this kind of work was a good way for unemployed people to make money. And, the cartoneros provide a service to the city that is environmentally helpful.

The documentary "Recycled Life" tells about people living in the garbage collection area in Guatemala City. The movie tells about the many families who live and work there.

In "Marina of the Zabbaleen" director Engi Wassef explores a group of Christian garbage collectors in Cairo called the Zabbaleen. The film is presented through the eyes of a seven year old girl named Marina. The movie is about garbage and recycling but also about family, culture, and spirituality.

The Canadian movie "Addicted to Plastic" is about plastic pollution. It was filmed over three years in twelve countries. The film explores ways to reduce the harmful effects of plastic waste. And it looks at new developments such as plastic made from plants.


Several of the festival's events honored the German filmmaker Werner Herzog. The natural environment plays an important role in his documentaries and other movies. For example, you could see his documentary "Encounters at the End of the World" which came out in two thousand seven.


WERNER HERZOG: "These images taken under the ice of the Ross Sea in Antarctica were the reason I wanted to go to this continent. The pictures were taken by a friend of mine, one of these expert divers."

In this movie, Herzog meets the many workers and researchers who live at McMurdo station in Antarctica. He learns about different projects that the scientists are working on.

Werner Herzog's movie "Grizzly Man" tells about the bear expert Timothy Treadwell who lived with and studied bears in the state of Alaska.

"Fitzcarraldo" is a Herzog film that was released in nineteen eighty-two. It tells the story of Carlos Fitzcarraldo, a rubber producer in Peru.

This character fights against the forces of nature to try to realize his dream of building a performance center in Iquitos, Peru.


Several of the movies at the Environmental Film Festival dealt with food and agriculture. The Swedish film "Cows Are Nice" looks at cow farmers trying to make a living in the milk industry.

In the Brazilian movie "Mr. Bene Goes to Italy", a manioc flour producer travels from Brazil to Italy. There, he meets small farmers from around the world who are interested in the "slow food" movement.

"Return of the Honeybee" was shown at the Carnegie Institute for Science. It explores the political and economic effects caused by the disappearance of honeybees. The film shows the important role these bees play in the world's food chain.

The movie "Nora!" examines the career of restaurant owner and cook Nora Pouillon. Her restaurant in Washington, D.C. had the first officially organic kitchen in the United States. She has become an important leader in the organic and local food movements.


Flo Stone says that this year's festival was so popular they had to turn crowds away because there was no room for all the people who wanted to see the movies. Here she explains part of why these films are so popular.

FLO STONE: "I feel that film takes you to places. It introduces you to people all over the world. You get to hear their voices. It inspires you. And the variety of the films is what is so exciting."

The Environmental Film Festival in Washington plays an important role in helping increase understanding about a subject that is important for people all over the world.

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus. You can download podcasts from our Web site, Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.

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