Nicaraguan field workers who become sterile due to pesticides, a conservationist who was murdered while trying to save Lake Naivasha in Kenya and New Haven teenagers working on urban farms will all make an appearance at the Whitney Humanities Center this week — in 35 mm.
The second annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale, which started Tuesday, will present screenings of internationally recognized feature films and documentaries, as well as talks and discussion panels with Yale faculty and guests addressing contemporary environmental issues ranging from food production and water pollution to energy and environmental justice.
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“The field of environmental communication is so new, people are just now realizing how important it is to master the art of communication to get the issues out there,” said Eric Desatnik FES ’10, executive director of the festival.
The festival’s lineup includes a live conversation with former CBS news anchor Dan Rather and a screening of the recent Academy Award winner “The Cove.” An advance screening of the Disneynature film “Oceans” and many United States and world premieres are also on the list.
Like most festivals, the entirely student-managed Environmental Film Festival will award prizes: A jury of students and Yale faculty will select best feature and short films, and event attendees will fill out ballots to determine the recipient of an “Audience Award.”
In selecting the films for the lineup, Desatnik said festival organizers wanted to be current, looking for the “newest information and the freshest perspectives.”
James LaVeck, producer of “Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home,” who will be speaking in conjunction with the screening of his movie on April 9, said the festival is an important opportunity for filmmakers to interact with the community of scholars at Yale who study the same environmental issues the festival’s films address. LaVeck’s film, for example, questions the ethics of traditional farming and animal husbandry.
“Through the work of making films and working with audiences, we as filmmakers have developed a very good understanding of how the human consciousness awakens and how to support that awakening,” LaVeck said. “The same information develops in a school — an understanding of how to teach not just students but also the general public.”
The festival’s organizers also underscored the benefits of reaching out to the community. The Environmental Film Festival is free and open to the public, in order to get as many people from the New Haven community as possible into the Whitney auditorium, said Chandra Simon FES ’11, the festival’s programming director.
“Films are entertaining, suspenseful and inspiring,” Desatnik said. “We use the power of film to get people into the theater and spark their interest.”
Since the festival’s ultimate goal is to educate a broad audience, organizers said they paired screenings with panel discussions on similar topics.
LaVeck stressed the need for more public awareness and involvement with these environmental problems, which he said are becoming increasingly more dire.
“It’s no longer a situation in which a small number of people in positions of authority or a few scientists can take action to save our ecosystem,” he said. “Everyone needs to become involved in change and working toward the solution.”
But while undergraduate interest in the festival is enthusiastic, it has been limited to a small niche, said Matthew Ramlow ’11, one of three co-chairs of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, who plans to volunteer for some of the festival’s events.
“We’re always trying to get more undergrads, but only the undergrads that are related to the issues tend to come — the environmental studies folks and then the film community,” Ramlow said. “It’s not that advertised to other people.”
The festival will run through Apr. 11.