Green on the screen

The fourth annual Ecocinema Film Festival offers a host of movies to help raise environmental awareness and suggest ways in which we can help avert an ecological crisis.

movie camera 88 (photo credit:)
movie camera 88
(photo credit: )
Mainstream culture has been slowly awakening to the realization that our comfort-centric lifestyle will not be sustainable for much longer. The sun is hotter, the weather patterns are changing and the price of food, fuel and real estate is soaring. Experts warn us against everything from sitting in the sun to taking long, hot showers. Wars, floods, droughts and famines are breaking out like a rash over the planet. And many feel helpless to stop the decline. Against this bleak backdrop, it is time once again for the Ecocinema (Ecolnoa in Hebrew), Israel's fourth annual environmental awareness film festival. This year, it kicked off on May 15 in Jerusalem and will run through May 25 at the Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sderot and Rosh Pina cinematheques. Ecocinema Israel (EI), the nonprofit organization that launched the Ecocinema Film Festival in 2004, does not focus on the doom and gloom side of environmental awareness. Instead, the organization aims to raise awareness of the impending global environmental crisis and suggest what individuals can do to help. As Abra Kayne, director of international relations at Ecocinema Israel, relates, "We believe that if people care, if people understand in their hearts, we will find the solution. We want people to leave this festival knowing that there are solutions, that we are working toward them and that they can take part in a movement for change." Over the last few years, Israel has witnessed an upturn of interest in the environment, sustainable culture and ecological technology. Mounting green awareness in Israel can be gauged by the increased availability of organic food, college degrees in environmental management, water conservation efforts and in the Knesset's recent debates about introducing plastic bag levies. Another sign of growing green awareness is the evolution of the Ecocinema Festival from a three-day weekend affair confined to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque complex to a 10 day-event in five cities. Organizers anticipate a total attendance of more than 30,000 this year. An assortment of films from around the world that promote environmental awareness and sustainable living is scheduled to be screened, including former US vice president Al Gore's well-known documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2005), which details the rise of global warming and Leonardo DiCaprio's project, The 11th Hour (2007), which demonstrates how the Earth's fragile ecosystems can be restored. Less famous films on the roster include a premiere of Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone's The Queen of the Wasps, which examines the fragile relationship between trees and wasps; and Bullshit, which tells the story of the Indian environmental activist and nuclear physicist Vandana Shiva. Also premiering will be Lionel Friedburg's A Sacred Duty, which discusses halachic responses to global environmental threats. The festival will also feature a number of Hebrew-language Israeli films that deal with local environmental issues, as well as a selection of films by Syrian and Jordanian directors on the environmental issues in the Middle East. Many of these selections focus on water quality and conservation and other environmental concerns that traverse national borders in a geopolitically sensitive area. The festival's wide range of film subjects - from reforestation and education to bike riding paths and food production - allows audiences to choose films that target their strongest environmental interests. "Whatever your interest is in the environment is available for you," says Kayne. Some films will be accompanied by lectures and expert panels so viewers can discuss what they've seen and find out more about specific issues. Ecocinema opened on May 15 in Jerusalem with a gala invitation-only evening at the Cinematheque that featured a screening of the Israeli film Garbage State. On May 16, a green fair dubbed "The Big Green Happening," run entirely on sustainable energy sources, will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Offered will be activities for the entire family, including musical performances, organized walks, environmental awareness information booths, recycling workshops, gardening workshops, children's nature crafts workshops, organic food and - of course - film screenings. The Ecocinema Film Festival runs through May 20 in Jerusalem. For more information, visit www.ecocinema.org.il, e-mail ecocinema@gmail.com or call the Jerusalem Cinematheque at (02) 565-4333.