The 32nd International Festival of Films of the Environment

by Jane Rosenstein – Edited by Harold Dill

Film Festival Ouv-AP1

Freedom  L’Evol d’Un Aigle

 

(February 3 – 10 ,2015   Paris, France) – There is an increasing interest in environmental issues today. FIFE, Festival International du Film d’Environment, the event of  the 32nd edition was headquartered  in the movie theater Cinéma de Cinestes in central Paris, about 5 minutes from my place. Most of the films were shown there.  

FIFE was orgnized in 2004 by the Région Île-de-France with its objectives to foster ecology and lasting development, to show the public environmental bad effects and social problems and to present solutions. In the perspective of the world conference on   Conference Mondial Paris Climate (COP)  global warming, Fife offered to to show the scope of the problems that are facing us and to show some solutions which are already in place. L’Île de France, first ecological region of Europe, has a daily job to protect natural grounds, fight againt pollution  and  toxic gases and to aid the development renewable energy. With the Plan Climat adopted in 2011, the region’s objective is  to reduce the carbon dioxide emmissions of 75% by 2030. Other areas of concern are air quality, common transportation and renewable energy.

The goal of the largest environmental film festival in France was to inform Parisians about environmental issues and featured the following themes: Global Warming, People have the Power (people having power to demonstrate for causes), Animals, Health and Environment, City Walks, (problems of citIes) and Conveying and Transporting Water Throughout the World.  In France all foreign language films must be either subtitled or dubbed in French. At the Festival they were subtitled. There were 101 films and 20 web documentaries. FIFE is the most important event for environmental films in France and one of the most important events for this subject in Europe.

The festival started with an opening film followed with with a  gala reception. Francesca Grunupp, another journalist with Veterans Today, and  I also enjoyed attending the closing film and reception.  A variety of discovery workshops were presented, including one about fruits and vegetables and another focused on exploring environmental philosophy. There were also meetings where industry professionals were invited to exchange their ideas about worldwide film production, packaging, and distribution. Klynt, an editing and publishing application for interactive storytellers, presented its latest release. It was originally designed for Honkytonk Films as an affordable, user-friendly solution for long-form storytelling on the internet. The application is designed to benefit producers in the fields of journalism, photography and documentary films. 

Now in its third year, FIFE supports filmmakers that have not found distributors in France by providing a showcase designed to present their projects to TV buyers and distributors, DVD distributions, international vendors, VOD players and festivals. FIFE provides writers, directors, producers, media buyers, and distributors an opportunity to explore business opportunities.

Opening Film:

We enjoyed the opening film —  FREEDOM , l’ENVOL d’UN AIGLE    by Muriel Barra  and Jacques Olivier Travers, France.

The film tells the story of Roi, a wild white-tailed eagle who thinks he is the last survivor of his kind. He became separated from his species of eagles and was taken in by a kind man who saw him having difficulty finding food and surviving the harsh winters. We were captivated by the bond between eagle and man as we witnessed Roi’s kind protector take this majestic bird of prey under his wings to teach him how to survive the elements and hunt for food.

Closing Film:

HEALING  by  Craig Manaham, Australia

After 18 years in prison, Victor Khadom (Don Henry) has almost given up on life in dispair but then for the last year he is sent to Won Won a low security prison and reforestation center in regional Victoria. Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving), the senior officer,  established a program for the rehabilitation of beautiful eagles, falcons and owls.  Matt proceeds to establish the program by using Victor as a test case. He introduces him to Yasmine, who is a wedge-tailed eagle that had been injured and was recovering from treatment. We sat spellbound as the story evolved.

Documentary Films:

In addition to the featured opening and closing documentary films there were many more. I went to see a few.

Having an interest in China, I went to see the documentary

THE IRON MINISTRY USA/CHINA  J. R. Sniadeci

It took this USA producer spent three years to  film passengers on China’s railways. We heard the people speak in English and Chinese about their aspirations, problems, and some of their hopes.  Having taken only one short train ride in China, I found the film extremely interesting. It combined many journeys into one long story. We saw how the people spent their days and nights on the train.  Passengers liked talking to the filmmaker.

One told of how she worked in a factory from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. making handbags and could barely make enough money to buy food for herself and her family. The lady with whom she was talking told her she was the same age and knew about the problems in that city. Others told about how they were not allowed to get married unless they could get a house to live in from their future mother-in-law. Some men talked about being Moslem and eating Hallel.  One young girl was going to see her fiancé and hoped to find work in a factory in the city. People ate food they brought from home and paid some small money to a man pushing a food trolley down the aisles with soup, water and some snacks.  The filmmaker tried to film the dining car but he was refused. We saw the train personnel asking people for their tickets and even saw the sleeping compartments.

I was  amazed to see how crowded the train was and the conditions (far from the 2nd class TGV high-speed trains that I travel on in Europe) were. It gave the audience a perspective of the problems in China.

LA CORDE DE DIABLE /DEVIL’S ROPE   Sophie Bruneau, Belgium

This film, presented in English, featured barbed wire that is rooted in the USA’s wild west. It showed the use of barbed wire fencing. We were introduced to a man who wrote 6 books on the different kinds of barbed wire that he classified. We also heard a man talk of the fortunes he made manufacturing barbed wire. He started his own business and had the good luck to get some men to work free for months while he was starting the business. He said he was very good to his employees but then sold the business for a profit. The most interesting and sad part of the movie was when an Indian man talked about the immigrants crossing over from Mexico, getting through the barbed wire or border patrol and then dying on his territory. He said no man, woman, or child should die like this, on Indian territory, after succeeding to enter the USA carrying food and water. After one day of hiking their water ran out and they could not continue their exodus to Phoenix which was two days away. Then we saw an archeologist who went to a closet where she showed us the possessions of the deceased. It was sad as she opened up the plastic bags to reveal what possessions they had like cell phones, names and addresses, crosses and some photos. She told us that they could be used to identify the deceased even without the body. In effect, the people knew they might not succeed in their journey. It raised questions of how they got across the border patrol. The Indian said that the desert is unforgiving and that is how they died due to lack of water and food.

LAS  VEGAS MEDITATION Florent Tillon, France

The Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority would not like this film! 

Having been to Las Vegas several years ago, I was really surprised to see its degradation. Most of the grand hotels I knew and liked to visit for their free drinks (while playing nickel slots) and inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffets were demolished. Even Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel & Casino downtown with its cheap inexpensive midnight steak dinner is gone. Forever grappling with its undiversified economy, Las Vegas is seeing hard times that were only exacerbated approximately a decade ago by the subprime collapse. Many of its suburbs have become deserted with tracts of vacant houses and boarded up retail strip malls. Much like Detroit, Las Vegas blight has become a tragically omnipresent idiom of the region. Recurring drought requires homeowner to use xeriscape (rocks and desert flora) instead of green grass landscaping that would require watering. Las Vegas may still possess a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a few lucky winners, but for many it fast becoming the “end of the world” where volatile gaming revenue is proving inadequate to sustain a once burgeoning population.

Ironically, in 2010 it was the fastest growing city in America according to U.S. Census Bureau. Outside of the casinos and the tourists who come, there is nothing much there. We see Jaret Deane an employee at a casino who tolerates his daytime job to support his wife and family with their suburban house with a swimming pool but who really enjoys playing and songwriting with his post-apocalyptic band; David Parker who sings and is a songwriter with the same band, at 27 doesn’t want kids because the future is too bleak in Las Vegas. How can people there cope with the future? What is the meaning of life when the only city you know is disappearing?  Can this city built out of the desert have any meaning life? This film definitely does not make the viewers want to go to Las Vegas!

There were several prizes presented to the winners in person, by thank you letters written by the winners who could not be present or by seeing them on the screen by skype. All winners were thankful to FIFE and some appeared to be thrilled.

The information below is from material provided by FIFE.

The Grand Prize was 10,000 Euros and went to GOOD THINGS AWAIT  by Phie Ambo  Denmark  2014

Neils, a famer provides some best restaurants of the world with fresh ingredients  following the lunar calendear and in harmony with the universe. Neils life becomes difficult.His farm becomes subject to government rules  and authorities both of which do not adapt to his biodynamic principals. Neils gets near the end of his life and has no successor to take over his dream.

The Best Full Length Documentary Prize was 5,000 Euros and was won by

THE SHORE BREAK  Ryley Grunewald  South Africa 2014

Two cousins from a rural community has different plans to develop their homes on  the  South Africa’s Wild Coast. Nonhle wants to preserve their traditional  Pondo culture  and graves throug ecotourism while her cousin Madiba wants to mine the land for titanium and support the South African Government’s controversial plans to build a highway through the West Coast. During this process of them deciding what to do, the Pondo King and Queen are dethroned by the Government because they spoke out against the developments; The King and Queen must take the Government to court which has replaced the King with his pro-mining nephew.

The Best Medium Length Documentary Award based on public voted by those attending the screenings 1,000 Euros went to:

SOVEREIGNTY DREAMING  by Vanessa Escalente  France 2014

In 1972 when the Australian government refused to give the land to the Aborigines the offered to lease land to them. Instead  4  young Aborignes created the “Aborignal Tent Embassy”.  Forty years later in 2006  Australia with no treaty with the Aborignes  tried to build a national radiactive waste dump at  Muckaty a sacred land for the Aborignes .  Milwayian aborigne women  took the government to court for a trial that was scheduled for June, 2014 the results not known at the time of the film;

The Best Short Story Documentary Award for 4,000 Euros chosen by the high school students and apprentices Jury from Isle de France went to  TYRES  DE KYAW MYO LWIN   by Myanmar  Germany 2013

A tire reclycling workshop in South Okkalapa in Myanmar’s former capital of Yangon is the place of mutipe uses and mutiple deaths. This fim is almost entired in black and white. It shows how people created buckets, brushes and slippers from discarded rubber tires.

Best Web Documentary selected by Internet Users for 1000 Euros went to

COPA PARA QUEM? by Maryse Williquet Belgium 2014

Brazil hosted the Football World Cup.  How is the event organized?  What are the impacts? The film explores one of the  twelve hosting cities  Fortaleza  in one of the poorest states of Brazil.  The city illustrates the diversity of the lush coast  resorts and beaches and hundreds of poor children and sexual tourism. The city gets ready for visitors to the World Cup of Soccer.

The Prix Eco Bambins selected by children viewing the films for 1,000 Euros

FRED & ANABEL  by Ralph Kukula   Germany 2014

A  silent  cartoon film about an usual friendship between a goose named Annibel and a cat  named Fred;

Best Fiction Award by public vote by those attending the films for 5,000 Euros

TEST by Alexander Kent  Russia  2014

A silent film about a man and W his daughter on an isolated farm in Russia. When two boys, a Muscovite and a Kazakh  compete for the young girl’s heart, a threat is nearby  the testing of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb is about to begin.

The 32nd International Film Festival of Fims of the Environment was both a fun and learning experience. The purpose of the FIFE festival was to entertain and educate attendees about environmental issues and provide opportunities for industry professionals to interact. To that end the event was a great success.

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