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Film Festival Focuses on Environmental Issues

More than 100 films were screened at the 16th annual Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. (March 11-21st). The selections at this important and largely free showcase provided fresh perspectives on environmental issues across the globe.

Festival director Flo Stone says most films debuted elsewhere and came to the attention of the festival's more than 65 partners, including not only movie theaters but foreign embassies and non-profit organizations, many of which open their venues for screenings. "When we see a very good film, we think, 'Oh, that might work perfectly at the Czech embassy or that might be ideal for the Woodrow Wilson Center or the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Freer Gallery of Asian Art."

Last year, 22,000 people attended the Environmental Film Festival. Stone expects more this year to see films like Sense of Wonder. In it, actress Kaiulani Lee takes her one-woman stage show about Rachel Carson to the big screen. Lee portrays the mother of the modern-day environmental movement, whose 1962 best-seller, Silent Spring, warned of the dangers of chemical pesticides.

"We cut our lawns, our gardens with lethal sprays and dusts, and every meal we eat carries its load of chlorinated hydrocarbons, DDT and other related chemicals," Lee, as Carson, says in the film. "The question I ask is so simple. Is it possible to lay down this barrage of poison on the surface of the earth without making the earth unfit for all?"

Stone says the film works "because you are so focused on the words of Rachel Carson."

Another film, Garbage Warrior, brings to the festival a portrait of New Mexico architect Michael Reynolds. His sustainable buildings recycle plastic bottles, cans and tires, objects more likely to be found in a landfill.

Stone says the film follows Reynolds to Indonesia in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami. "It is he who is sent out to build the most practical housing, for the people who have lost everything, from found materials."


'Til the River Runs Clear is followed by a panel discussion, as are most films in the festival. Stone says in this way filmgoers can relate what they see on the screen to their daily lives. "I believe that you can show a film about a part of the world that you have never seen, that you know nothing about, but it can really resonate very strongly in your own life, where you live and your own surroundings."

Stone says those powerful connections can encourage filmgoers to turn their heightened environmental awareness into actions, and make a positive difference in their communities.