The concept of habitats will be the focus of this year’s Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, which will be held April 6–12.
FLEFF is a local annual film festival in its 18th year and has been sponsored by Ithaca College since 2004. This year’s festival will include films on several topics, ranging from New York City rooftop farmers to the crisis in the Congo, all under the umbrella theme of habitats.
The 18th annual FLEFF will include over 100 film screenings and presentations and over 50 guests, including academics, directors and film distributors, Patricia Zimmermann, co-director of FLEFF and professor of media arts, sciences and studies, said. Films are shown both on campus and downtown at Cinemapolis. Films on campus are free to the public, while students can buy a five film pass for films at Cinemapolis for $20 and admission to individual movies for $8 each. Along with the films, there will be discussions and programming, Thomas Shevory, co-director of FLEFF and professor of politics, said.
Patrick Grossi ’03, a public historian, will be FLEFF’s opening lecturer and will be speaking about urban housing at 7 p.m. April 6 in Textor 103. The FLEFF opening concert, “Carmen’s Habitat,” will be held at 8:15 p.m. April 7 at the Hockett Family Recital Hall in the James J. Whalen School of Music. Author Sorayya Khan will hold the international book launch of her new novel, “City of Spies,” at 6 p.m. April 8 in the the Handwerker Gallery.
Shevory said the festival is completely different every year, as a new theme means new films and new topics of discussion.
“Everything’s new,” he said. “The whole program is a new program, there’s new guests, films, everything.”
Senior Kaley Belval, a FLEFF blogger, has participated in FLEFF for the past three years. She said every year the festival shows films by bigger names with larger international followings.
“Over the years, they’ve had more access to films from different countries and by different artists,” she said. “Also, the guests who have been coming to FLEFF in recent years have been also been very high profile, exciting to talk to and helpful for students who want to go into the field.
Tanya Saunders, assistant provost for international studies and special projects and executive director of FLEFF, said the festival allows students the chance to experience something different.
“FLEFF helps us get out of our narrow tunnel vision and engage in a bigger conversation, a local, national and international conversation about issues that affect all of us,” she said.
Shevory said the topic of habitats was chosen last year after watching films about bird habitats by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at the 2014 festival. He said they were looking for a more explicitly environmental topic.
The concept of habitats, Zimmerman said, is one that is filled with contradictions.
“On one hand, a habitat is a designated territory which is lived in and sustains life,” she said. “On the other hand, habitats are often marked by enormous instabilities, contradictions and violence.”
Nevertheless, Khan said the theme of habitats relates to her goals as a writer.
“Habitats means home to me; that is, home in all its complexities — nation, family, identity,” she said. “Equally important, though, is that home is also the stories with which we have been raised and which have made us who we are.”
Shevory said student participation is essential for FLEFF, and between 1,000 and 2,000 students participate in FLEFF in some manner, as interns or participants. There are seven minicourses being offered this block addressing the following topics: the American dream, word choice and how rhetoric influences reality, narrative film as activism, prison as a habitat in film and television, geography in environmental film, human domination of nature, national cinemas and the intersection of health and geography.
Political Habitats: Narrative Film as Activism and Global Habitats, National Cinema in the Era of Globalization are two General Communications courses, still open for registration, that will be offered specifically during the festival week in addition to the two weeks before and one week after.
Belval said she would encourage students to take a minicourse in the future.
“It’s a really good opportunity to engage with the festival in a different way and to look at these issues from a multidisciplinary perspective from professors you may not be able to take other classes with,” she said.
Students can also participate by taking a three-credit blogging course or serving as an intern. Interns receive credit and aid the festival in many different disciplines, including operations, social media, marketing, hospitality and event management. Students can also serve as junior fellows, who get an inside look into the operations of the festival to learn more about how festivals are run.
Saunders said these opportunities are very beneficial to students.
“The internship is a way to give experiential learning while minicourses are an academic guide to make connections so you can have an integrated and coherent understanding of what you’re seeing,” she said.
Junior Katie Beaule, a FLEFF blogger, said FLEFF makes students aware of pressing issues that they sometimes are not aware of.
“Sometimes when we’re at college we can be so zoomed in on everything that’s happening, whether it’s social or school work, and sometimes you can get in a bubble and forget what’s happening in the world around you,” she said. “Being aware is awesome, and FLEFF definitely makes people aware through the films they have.”
Zimmermann said everyone’s ideas are treated as equal at the festival, and students are often surprised by the way their ideas are received by the professionals.
“A festival is about creating a space for dialogue about issues and ideas that matter … and to bring people together in a way that is not a class,” she said. “Festivals are about meaningful engagement and interaction. When you come to a festival, everyone’s ideas are equal.”
Saunders said the festival is open and welcoming to all members of the campus community.
“You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be willing to see and engage with others,” she said. “The goal is to help us gain a better understanding of our own condition and the conditions others find themselves in.”
For this reason and for mutual benefit, Khan said students should participate in the festival.
“The festival is a lens into different worlds that is delivered to this campus and town,” she said. “Not to mention, too, FLEFF benefits from the energy and skills of students directly involved. It’s a win-win for all.”