One Earth Film Festival Expansion Opens New Doors

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The third annual One Earth Film Festival was the biggest and best one yet! Originally conceived and launched by Green Community Connections in Oak Park and River Forest two years ago, the One Earth Film Festival has grown dramatically in a short time. Festival organizers, volunteers, resource persons and attendees have made connections and formed new partnerships, opening doors for ongoing growth and development of the Midwest’s Premier Environmental Film Festival.

This year we expanded the volunteer-run film festival into 10 new communities. In Berwyn, River Grove and eight Chicago locations—from the North Side to the South Side, with Austin, Garfield Park and 3 universities and colleges in between, nearly 2,500 people saw 30 films in 28 locations the weekend of March 7-9, as well as at eight pre-Fest screenings.

“People came up to me at Chicago sites to thank me for bringing the festival to Chicago this year,” said Natalie Laczek, who headed the Chicago expansion team. “That was really nice to hear.”

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Festival organizers launched the film fest weekend with a Green Carpet Gala at The Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park. River Forest resident and activist Sue Crothers took the opportunity to thank all of the sponsors and supporters that made the film fest possible. Jamie Ponce, city director for Chicago  in the C40 Climate Leadership Group of the Clinton Climate Initiative, was the guest speaker.  Ana Garcia Doyle, leader of the One Earth Film Festival's core team, shared examples of "shifts" people are making to participate in the emerging sustainable economy, like Oak Park's Repair Café and the Sugar Beet Co-op.

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"Share the joy with others!"

Festival programs combined relevant activities and appearances by knowledgeable resource people who enriched post-film discussions. Fest-goers got firsthand insights from beekeepers, reclaimed wood experts, permaculture practitioners and people like Ken Dunn, Chicago’s dean of recycling and founder of The Resource Center. After the “Growing Cities” screening at West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Dunn told the audience, “Share the joy with others. There's no need to preach or make people feel guilty. Invite them to taste, to try."

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“More Than Honey,” shown in the Jensen Room at Garfield Park Conservatory, not only drew 135 people, according to Pam Todd, another member of the Chicago expansion team,“but they hung out more than an hour after the program ended to talk to one another and local bee experts.”

"We've got to step it up."

Two of the three filmmakers of “Comfort Zone,” Dave Danesh and Sean Donnelly, trekked all the way from Rochester, N.Y., to join a lively discussion following their film’s screening Saturday afternoon at the Oak Park Public Library. Comfort Zone is an engaging, consciousness-changing, and often funny film that asks us to confront our own connection to climate change.  Toward the end of the post-film dialogue, 90-year-old, former Oak Park Village Clerk, Virginia Casson, shared her pride in all that Oak Park has accomplished in the area of sustainability. She went on to challenge the crowd by saying, “looking at the faces of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I realize that we’ve got to ‘step it up’ and continue to make a difference both locally and globally.”

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This year's winning Young Filmmakers

Family-friendly programming is always a priority in the One Earth Film Festival.  The Young Filmmakers Contest, in its 2nd year, salutes the work of students from who use film to explore environmental issues. This year’s winners,  from Willard School and Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest, Ilinois, and Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois, submitted films about water conservation, transportation, and electronic waste. They received cash awards and matching grants to be donated to a nonprofit organization or community sustainability project of their choosing.

As in years past, the festival got rolling with several pre-Fest screenings and discussions. Dominican University held the first pre-Fest screening, which also featured a packed mini farmers market. New pre-Fest venues this year were WIRE music club in Berwyn, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Latino Cultural Center and its Gallery 400, Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema, and Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

1912423_610773862326112_1924924874_nAn enthusiastic crowd of 70 people turned out to watch “Urban Roots,” an inspiring film about urban agriculture in Detroit, at Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab on a snowy Saturday afternoon one week before the festival. Following the film, audience members broke out into small groups, discussing everything from grocery store options in Chicago to rebuilding the local food economy to “getting un-addicted to processed food,” as one woman put it.

The New Environmentalists

The third annual One Earth Film Festival closed out at Unity Temple on Sunday, March 9th, with a reception and screening of “The New Environmentalists,” a multiple Emmy Award-winning PBS/Sundance Channel series featuring inspiring portraits of passionate and dedicated activists. And perhaps, in the span of one event-filled, thoughtful weekend, yet another group of new environmentalists was born. 

Watch more film fest films 

Perhaps you didn’t get to see all the films you’d hoped to during the Festival.  If that's the case, please refer to our list of featured films, with information and links describing whether and how you might be able to obtain a copy to watch. Some of the films may be available via a Netflix account, or at your local library, for example. We found these films to be incredibly inspiring, and hope you will too!

Help us improve the film festival for next year

If you did not get an opportunity to complete an audience feedback survey for one or more of the films that you saw during the fest, please do so online NOW!  Entering your feedback helps us to plan for our next event and you will be entered into a drawing to win a personal film screening as well (Details at the survey link.) Thank you!

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