In its second year, the One Earth Film Festival nearly quadrupled its inaugural year attendance numbers, filling venues with viewers who came from as far away as Aurora and Grayslake to screenings throughout Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and Chicago, IL. The three-day festival, held March 1-3, also debuted its Young Filmmakers Contest, which showcased the environmental concerns of area school students.
The festival kicked off with a Green Carpet Gala at Pleasant Home in Oak Park and a program that featured Lea Kichler, high school winner of the first Young Filmmakers Contest, and Gerould Wilhelm, a botanist and director of research at the Conservation Research Institute in Elmhurst.
Kichler’s film, “Let’s Talk About Water,” featured an off-camera interviewer asking kids (a few of them pictured at right) questions that tested their knowledge of water. The eight-minute film ended with a simple question: “What will you do to save water?”
As if designed to complement Kichler’s film, Wilhelm’s witty, thoughtful talk was peppered with deep insights about water and conservation. "Let us learn to treat water as a resource, not a waste product,” he said. “We must regard water as a blessing, not a bane."
Popular Films and Programming Pack the House
On Saturday morning, a sold-out crowd at Lake Street Theater watched “Chasing Ice,” the riveting documentary that captures visual evidence of climate change using time-lapse photography to show rapidly melting glaciers.
The Sunday afternoon screening of two food-related films, “Ingredients” and “Food Patriots,” co-hosted by the Sugar Beet Co-op at Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, took on a family-style atmosphere. Friends of Sugar Beet served up a variety of soups and breads before families, church members and others settled in to view the films.
“Food Patriots” filmmaker Jeff Spitz facilitated a post-film discussion that “explored how community-based projects like a food co-op or community gardens can serve to educate and inspire people to make better food choices,” Cheryl Munoz, co-founder of Sugar Beet, said.
One Earth Film Festival, hosted by a sustainability organization called Green Community Connections, screened 40 films in more than 25 venues around Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and in Chicago’s Austin community. The festival uses the power of film to create opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement.
Festival organizers this year paid particular attention to involving young people, offering separate programs on Saturday morning at Beye Elementary School in Oak Park for young children (3-6) and older children (7-11). In between, a program recognized the elementary and middle school Young Filmmakers Contest winners.
Organizers were hoping to double last year’s attendance of 500 but instead saw a final tally of 1,910. A fourth of those attended pre-fest screenings leading up to the weekend. The huge attendance increase over last year both surprised and thrilled the all-volunteer team of organizers who planned every aspect of the festival.
“It was really incredible to witness the impact this festival has on our community,” said Katie Morris, who helped coordinate the Young Filmmakers Contest and screenings at several venues. “It was amazing to see how many people came out to offer their talents, skills and knowledge as volunteers, facilitators, technicians and resource people. It was an incredible group effort, everyone working tirelessly to bring the community together over sustainability and change.”
Moving beyond its suburban boundaries, the festival this year held a screening in the Austin community on Chicago’s West Side. “Soul Food Junkies,” a documentary that exposes the health advantages and disadvantages of a uniquely American cuisine, drew an enthusiastic, wide-ranging crowd. Following the screening, Chef Marwin Brown whipped up some healthier versions of soul food for the audience to sample.
Many who attended said they the festival opened their eyes to issues they don’t see much in the news: water shortages, petrochemicals in the environment and the work of young environmental activists—all topics that the films addressed.
One goal of the festival was to engage audiences in thoughtful dialogue about environmental issues, ranging from the rise in genetically modified foods to climate change to water use and conservation. Short facilitated discussions followed each screening.
This year, too, organizers offered fest-goers a chance to join a Pledge Group to demonstrate a commitment to taking “concrete action” toward reducing their footprint over the next three to six months. The festival team plans to follow up with electronic outreaches to those who signed pledge cards.
One Earth Film Festival closed out Sunday evening at Unity Temple in Oak Park with a showing of “Call of Life,” the first feature documentary to investigate the growing threat to Earth’s life-support systems from the unprecedented loss of biodiversity.
by Cassandra West, New Media Access
Photos courtesy of Eileen Molony (#1,2,3,5); Gloria Araya (#4)