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Vol. LXIII, No. 51
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
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Environmental Film Festival Tops the Bill as Library Looks Forward to a New Year

Dilshanie Perera

With an expanded array of programming, the upcoming Environmental Film Festival at the Princeton Public Library offers a powerhouse assembly of films, speakers, discussions, and diverse subject matter, for what promises to be an engaging two weeks in the new year. All events are free and open to the public.

Now in its fourth season, the festival runs every day from January 2 to January 17, and kicks off with family events including animals from the Philly Zoo on Wheels and the film Earth in the morning and afternoon, with a reception that evening featuring Steve Hiltner and the Sustainable Jazz Ensemble and a preview of upcoming festival films. The opening night feature is The Age of Stupid, a cautionary tale about global warming.

Librarian and Festival Organizer Susan Conlon explained that the 2010 festival will feature new themes based on suggestions from last year’s event attendees, like increased children’s programming on Saturday mornings, a look at endangered species, how land use and transportation affect how we live, and how environmental factors affect personal happiness, in addition to a variety of other topics.

Each year the planning committee, which includes Librarian Martha Perry, “looks for films that would be a good fit, and also receives unsolicited films that people send to us,” Ms. Conlon noted, estimating that among everyone in the group, between 150 and 200 films had been previewed to make the selections for this year’s festival.

“The festival starts out strong right off the bat in the first week,” Ms. Conlon noted. The lineup includes So Right So Smart, a documentary about the economy and environment, and positive steps taken by businesses, with President and CEO of Stonyfield Farm Gary Hirshberg and the four co-directors and filmmakers on hand for discussion afterward; a presentation on green building and home remodeling with area residents and architects on the panel; Earth Days, a film that looks at the modern environmental movement by Princeton native Robert Stone, who will be in attendance; and No Impact Man, which follows Colin Beavan as he and his family try to completely eliminate their impact on the environment for one year while living in New York City.

In Big River, the filmmakers who created the Peabody award-winning documentary King Corn, which screened at last year’s environmental film festival, investigate the effects of planting one acre of corn in Iowa. Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc. will be followed by a discussion with Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet. Award-winning Red Gold, will explore the life and culture of salmon fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska; while TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky will explain his idea of “eco-captialism” after a screening of the pilot episode of Garbage Moguls, a National Geographic documentary series featuring his company.

The list goes on to include a presentation by Chris Kilham, who will be arriving in Princeton directly from the Amazon rainforest, where he seeks natural medicinal remedies; Crude: The Real Price of Oil, done in a cinema-verité style to analyze the “Amazon Chernobyl” environmental lawsuit; and Homegrown, a portrait of a family running an organic farm in Pasadena.

“We are always pushing the idea of what an environmental film is,” Ms. Conlon said. “A lot of them have humor, and a lot of them have incredible portraits of people. This year we’re going to Bhutan, and Montana, and California, and the Pacific — the films take us everywhere, and bring the world to us.”

Having garnered national attention, the Princeton Environmental Film Festival was awarded the American Library Association’s Innovation and Excellence in Programming Award last July. Ms. Conlon said that the recognition helps the library promote the idea to other institutions, and highlights that it is “really ideal library programming.”

The ability to maintain many films in the Library’s collection is part of what makes the festival unique, according to Ms. Conlon. Patrons can revisit the material, or even organize their own screenings of films for which the library has secured public performance rights.

“We have more filmmakers coming than in previous years,” Ms. Conlon said of the 2010 Festival. Most screenings are followed by talks with the film’s creators, experts on the issue, or notable voices in the debate. “The amount of people who have accepted our invitation, or have come forward, shows that people support our event and really value it.”

“We want to see that wall come down between the presenter and audience too,” Ms. Conlon suggested, recalling that it is gratifying to see enthused audience members get involved. “The next thing you know, business cards are being exchanged, and people are volunteering for organizations.”

For a complete listing of Environmental Film Festival screenings and speaker programs, visit

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