Initially, people questioned, “Why environmental films?” but Stone felt confident these critical films would find an audience.
by: Karen Sosnoski
Flo Stone, Founder and President of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, remembers when this anticipated yearly event was just an idea. “We were the first environmental film festival,” she recalls. This year’s festival, held March 18-30, will be the twenty-second.
Initially, people questioned, “Why environmental films?” but Stone, who had previously run the Margaret Mead Festival in New York, felt confident these critical films would find an audience. Stone recognized DC - “with its libraries, universities, museums and environmental organizations” - as the perfect hub to draw people together, those passionate about the environment, those passionate about film, and those curious (and potentially passionate) about both. With the help of filmmakers, environmentalists, scientists, and an initial grant from the Golden Rule Foundation, Stone’s vision has manifested in a vital, mostly free event that encourages environmental education, local and international alliances, and action beyond screen time.
Peter O’Brien, EFF’s Executive Director reports, “Our films are high-quality and diverse--some hard-hitting exposés, Others great because of [how] they depict a beautiful environment. We also have narrative features, animation, children’s, urban, and experimental films.”
Stone adds, “We draw people in in diverse ways.”
Rivers and watersheds were a theme of the 2013 festival “because of their critical importance worldwide and the diversity of quality films focused on the topic,” explains Stone. “Here we have the Potomac River, the Anacostia River and the Chesapeake Bay watershed; the local connection for the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital could not be stronger.”
Last year's festival saw the premiere of the documentary Potomac: The River Runs Through Us. Stephanie Flack, the Conservancy’s Potomac River Director led a panel discussion on river conservation following the film's screening. Both Stone and O’Brien say that having experts like Flack involved helps the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital build on interest in conservation generated by the screenings.
A number of short films focusing on water issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay will be shown during this year's festival. Dr. Elizabeth Gray, executive director of the Maryland/DC chapter of The Nature Conservancy will moderate a panel discussion following the screening on March 22. TNC's Chesapeake Bay Program director Mark Bryer will also participate in the discussion. This event will be held at the National Museum of Natural History.
Steve Bunker, director of conservation programs for the MD/DC Chapter is also pleased by the opportunity that the Conservancy’s partnership with the Festival presents to expand and deepen environmental education. “Increasingly, conservation success relies on reaching and engaging people in urban areas such as Washington, DC, and educating them on the connections between conservation and their everyday lives. The Film Festival is a natural partner in this effort.”
Do you want to learn more about conservation and environmental issues and see some compelling films? Visit nature.org/dcevents for events co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, or the EFF website for a complete schedule.
About the Author
Karen Sosnoski is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to nature.org.