Environmental film festival reopens, with a broad view

After opening Monday, the fourth-annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) has grown in size and scope from years past.

The student-run festival was launched as a small three day event in 2008 and has been expanding ever since, said EFFY managing director Paul Thomson GRD ’12. He added that while this year’s festival spans a week, his team hopes that it will eventually become a year-long series of events at Yale. This year’s lineup includes 10 feature-length films and five shorts, Thomson said, as well as a filmmaking workshop and a conversation with the founder of the “No Impact Project,” Colin Beavan, an activist who has experimented with living an environmentally zero-impact lifestyle in New York City.

The festival was conceived by a group of graduate students at the School of Forestry four years ago as an attempt to help Yalies connect with the greater New Haven community while showcasing films about the environment, Thomson said. He noted that last year half of the 4,000 audience members who attended were unaffiliated with Yale.

“I think what’s unique about this film festival is that it’s run through a university so it’s not just a film festival that’s for commerce. It’s more about an academic issue, too, so I can see why there’s a focus on issues like sustainability,” said “Eating Alabama” filmmaker Andrew Grace, whose film played at the Whitney Humanities Center Tuesday evening.

The 14-member group of organizers selects each film, said co-managing director Emily Schosid GRD ’12, adding that they watched more than 150 films during the selection process for the festival this year. Each film is followed by a panel discussion featuring a mix of Yale faculty, filmmakers and people featured in the documentaries, Schosid added.

While there is no thematic progression to the films being shown over the week, Thomson said that the opening film “Surviving Progress” deals with broader environmental concerns, while the nine subsequent films each focus on specific issues, including the food system in the United States, the 2011 tsunami in Japan and nuclear power in the United States.

The organizers have a broader vision for the festival than just “saving the environment” Thomson said, adding that the films convey a more macroscopic social message of how people interact with each other and the environment.

“A lot of films look at how people interact with the environment, how the environment affects us — there’s a lot of social issues and they’re really not narrow in scope at all,” Thomson said.

Five audience members interviewed after the screening of “Eating Alabama” said they appreciated the festival’s use of film as a medium to convey important environmental and social messages.

“A lot of times [film] provokes or invokes thought and reflection which could foster action or even change of behavior, which as a culture we need to look into,” said Chris Randall, the executive director of New Haven Land Trust, who attended the screening.

Entry to each film and workshop is free. The festival closes on Saturday, April 15.

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