Movie-goers and environmental activists will be able to unite for a common cause this week at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale.
The seventh annual EFFY began on Friday with a series of workshops with professional filmmakers. The festival features a variety of environmentally-related films, ranging from shorts to feature-length, that explore topics that include expanding deserts in Tunisia, the work of American author Edward Abbey and a sinking mini-island off the coast of Columbia. Don Mosteller, EFFY’s executive director, said he thinks the festival aims to tackle environmental issues through film because of the unique emotional impact that films have on audiences.
“Film creates a visceral response in people that has a much better chance of whatever the film is intending,” Mosteller said.
Among other events, the festival featured screenings of films, such as Sunday afternoon’s showing of “What’s Motivating Hayes?” a short by Jonathan Demme, whose previous directing credits include “The Silence of the Lambs.” The film tells the story of Tyrone Hayes, a biologist who discovered the devastating effects of atrazine — an herbicide produced by the company Syngenta — on the reproductive organs of frogs. When Hayes tried to release his lab’s results, Syngenta tried to discredit Hayes’s findings by claiming that his results were intentionally skewed.
Hayes’ story is one of many covered in the film festival, which will screen more than a dozen films in total. But festival organizers interviewed said they watched 160 films in the process of putting together the festival’s program. Mosteller said he wanted to strike a balance between raising awareness about the urgency of environmental problems without making viewers feel hopeless about the prospects of ultimately overcoming these issues.
“Real measureable effects of climate change are happening right now. Without question,” Mosteller said in an interview. “The signal is very easily separated from the noise, statistically.”
Nevertheless, he emphasized that “these problems are not unsolvable.”
Mosteller noted the challenges of managing the festival’s logistics, explaining that the festival relies on graduate student volunteers and is limited in funding. Looking to the future, Mosteller said he hopes the festival can reach an even wider audience through innovative approaches, such as bringing a celebrity to the event to increase interest among the student body.
While this year’s festival has drawn hundreds of visitors so far, the featured events have seen a low turnout from the Yale undergraduate community. Of more than two dozen Yale undergraduates interviewed, none had heard of EFFY. Alex Thomas ’18 said that while he cares about environmental issues, attending the festival is not one of his top priorities as he does not have the time to watch environmental films for hours.
Iliana Lazarova FES ’16, a volunteer for EFFY, said she thinks the majority of audience members are New Haven residents.
The festival will end this Saturday with a screening of “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” at the Whitney Humanities Center.