This year’s Princeton Environmental Film Festival goes beyond film screenings to offer discussions with filmmakers, a celebratory dinner, and an awards ceremony.
The Festival kicks off next Wednesday, January 23, at 7 p.m., with Sustainable Princeton’s Annual Leadership Awards presented to individuals or organizations in recognition of efforts that enhance local sustainability in areas such as green building, healthy eating, buying local, and changing consumer habits. Also this year, a dinner at Mediterra is planned in honor of Emily Driscoll the director/producer of the documentary Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves, and others involved in the film, following its screening on Wednesday, January 30.
“Having speakers, including filmmakers, associated with the screenings adds a whole other dimension to the experience of watching the films,” said Festival Director and Founder Susan Conlon of the Princeton Public Library. “We have been very lucky since year one to have the filmmakers attend.”
The festival has grown since its early days and has found a winning format in the last couple of years. After experimenting with various schedules, Ms. Conlon reports that it now takes place over three consecutive long weekends, Thursday through Sunday, with most screenings in the evenings. “Part of what makes it work is our proximity here in Princeton and central New Jersey to New York City, Brooklyn, Hudson River Valley, and Philadelphia where many of the filmmakers are based,” said Ms. Conlon, noting the presence of Princeton-based filmmakers too.
As the Library’s Youth Services Team Leader, Ms. Conlon welcomes the involvement of local high school students, three of whom serve on the festival’s planning committee; two attend Princeton High School and one goes to Princeton Day School.
The theme of this year’s festival, “A Sense of Place,” emerged as a common thread. “A mindset of how we feel about and relate to both the natural and built environments of our homes and communities, is the force that drives many of those [individuals] featured in this year’s films,” noted Ms. Conlon.
Planning for the event began last March when, said Ms. Conlon, she realized that the Princeton Environmental Film Festival was a thing sufficient unto itself. “We don’t have to get bigger every year or strive to outdo other festivals.” While the festival remains true to its original focus on films with local as well as regional and international relevance, its director has “a broad view of sustainability” and looks for films that engage people and that might not otherwise be seen. Films are selected by invitation and by submissions via a call for entries. The result is a blend of both.
“Looking back at how our own sense of place was impacted as we braced for and dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last fall, it isn’t hard to understand the passion sparked when people feel their personal environment is threatened,” said Ms. Conlon. “That passion is evident in You’ve Been Trumped, our festival opener; The Island President our closing film; and many selections in between including the widely praised feature Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It’s also evident in documentaries Detropia, The House I Live In, Chasing Ice, and The Queen of Versailles. And, of course, in local filmmaker Jared Flesher’s Sourlands, which focuses on the effects of climate change in Central New Jersey. The film premiered to a standing-room only crowd at the Princeton Public Library last July and will be shown again on February 9.
The 35 films include, for children, Wallaby Tales — Traveling Zoo Show with wildlife educator Travis Gale (Saturday, January 26, 11 a.m.) and, for energy conservationists, the story of entrepreneur Jim Gordon’s proposal for 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound in Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle (Saturday, January 26, 1 p.m.), and a documentary on passive house design that is believed to achieve reductions of up to 90 percent in the energy required for heating and cooling (Saturday, January 26, 4 p.m.).
On Sunday, January 27, at 4 p.m. there will be a panel discussion on Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change, and the Future of Our Coastline with filmmaker Ben Kalina, film editor Marc D’Agostino, journalist Michael Lemonick (senior staff writer at Climate Central and a former senior science writer at Time magazine), and professional planner and New Jersey Institute of Technology adjunct instructor Tom Dallessio. The discussion will focus on how climate change will factor into the development of coastal communities.
The 2013 Princeton Environmental Film Festival opens Thursday, January 24, at Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, and runs through Sunday, February 10. Sponsored by Church & Dwight Co. Inc., Terra Momo Restaurant Group, and the Whole Earth Center of Princeton, all screenings are free. The dinner at Mediterra is the only festival event for which tickets are necessary. For more information, call (609) 924-9529 or visit: www.princetonlibrary.org. For a complete list of festival films, and updates on speakers, visit: http://commu