Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Princeton film festival explores broad range of environmental issues

Sometimes the best way to educate is to entertain; this has proven true by Princeton Public Library for the seventh straight year. Last weekend was the start of the annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival, the festival features more than 30 films that explore environmental sustainability from a wide range of perspectives. The film series will run from now through Feb. 10, with 13 days of free films for 2013. “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?” pave the way to the annual festival. Curator Susan Conlon says the library was inspired to create the film festival after the overwhelming success of two environmentally themed films. “The festival is a way to bring these kinds of films to the community; to explore new ideas and become aware of different perspectives,” Conlon says. “There are often more than two sides to an issue, and these films really make you expand your thinking.” It isn’t just the quantity of the film yet the quality as well, Conlon stresses that while the majority of the films address environmental matters, every film was primarily selected not just because it addressed a specific issue, but because it was a well-made, entertaining film. As diverse as the films may be, Conlon notes that they are all linked by a common theme. This year’s films explore a wide range of topics and present perspectives from literally around the world. “We’re looking at making that connection between the natural and the built environment and what’s important to us about the places where we live our lives, whether it’s a beautiful coast, a city, polar ice or even a prison,” Conlon says. The festival will begin and end by two thought-provoking and intriguing films. “You’ve Been Trumped,” a film about mogul Donald Trump’s attempts to convert one of Scotland’s last areas of coastal wilderness into a golf resort and local residents’ crusade to “trump” his efforts and prevent construction was the first film to roll in the opening of the festival. The festival wrap up on Feb. 10 with “The Island President,” the story of Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed and his attempts to prevent his country from disappearing into the sea. The film features music by Radiohead. With all pride and gratitude the festival is proud to announce the screening of two Academy Award contenders. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a nominee for best picture featuring the youngest-ever best actress nominee Quvenzhan√© Wallis. “Chasing Ice,” a haunting look at glacial erosion, is nominated for best original song. Casey Coleman, associate producer of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is scheduled to participate in a post-screening Q&A session. Academy Award nominated films mentioned are among the films to be screened Further films to be screened include “Detropia,” a look at life in the struggling city of Detroit; “The House I Live In,” Eugene Jarecki’s examination of America’s war on drugs, and “An Original DUCKumentary,” which follows the life of a family of ducks and is narrated by actor Paul Giamatti. “I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful” by director Jonathan Demme records one New Orleans woman’s struggle to find normality in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. After the screening the discussion with Parker’s daughter will take place. The hosting question-and-answer sessions is just one of the much awaited event, the festival also features shows geared toward children and numerous panel discussions about environmental issues. One of the panels will address an issue close to those who have chosen to make this region their home, as it examines how climate change will factor into the development of coastal communities, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Filmmaker Ben Kalina has an upcoming film “Shored Up,” about protecting and preserving the coastline in the light of rising sea levels. He will also act as one of the panels. Kalina says he had always wanted to create a film about barrier islands and the effects of rising seas. He was three years into the project when Sandy hit. “We were just about done, but once Sandy happened the entire structure of the film had to change dramatically,” Kalina says. “Sandy is now woven into the fabric of the film.” “The film is about getting people to step back and recognize the situation we’ve grown into. After Sandy, you don’t really have to explain what could happen anymore,” Kalina adds. “I’m not trying to answer the question of how we should move forward. But film can be very provocative and I hope ours provokes discussion.” The influence of Sandy on the film festival according to Conlon is it reveals that in addition to providing a sense of place, the films all share another common theme. “One lesson I think you’ll take away from all of the films is that people are really resilient,” Conlon says. “There’s something positive and reassuring about that.”

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