by Emily Schosid, EFFY 2011-2013

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It has been nearly 6 years since I graduated from FES, nearly 5 since I helped out with my last EFFY. When I think back on my time at Yale, stories from EFFY nearly always bubble up to the surface first. Stories from EFFY are what I tell at parties. They’re what I tell at job interviews. On first dates.

Sometimes the time working on EFFY felt long, laborious, mundane. Never-ending logistics, a constant stream of emails and text messages, more bad movies than I could ever count. There were spikes of excitement and surprise - unexpected celebrity audience members, a sold-out opening night, winning the Kroon Cup, being recognized by the Dean. And there were spikes of frustration and sadness - speakers who cancelled at the last minute, showing a film that audiences did not love, having to watch a much-loved teammate battle breast cancer.

Now all of these moments make me feel contented. I remember a night eating Indian delivery with the team during a late-night film-watching marathon and a looming decision deadline. We felt like we’d done nothing but watch bad documentary after bad documentary, and we knew that we had to make the call on what films would make it to our final lineup. Everyone was tired. Everyone was cranky. Frustrated. The room was split on the last few films that were up for consideration. We watched them again. We argued again. And then - I spilled curry all down my sweater. All over. Sweater ruined forever. And that broke the tension. We laughed. It was so late at night, and we felt like the work had only just begun. But the strong opinions relented, we wrote up our list of final selections, and walked home in the cold early-morning. And I smile to remember that night.

In the year after I graduated, I was working at FES and the EFFY Leadership team took me on as a “special advisor.” They gave me a night of the festival to program and oversee, and that night remains perhaps one of my most treasured EFFY moments. That night just happened to overlap the visits of three different filmmakers in town for their films’ screenings. Then-Dean Peter Crane was our panel moderator (he simply loved EFFY), and the panel included two incredible, distinguished Yale professors. A fantastic group of volunteers and EFFY team members had come out to help run the logistics of the night and, after the events were over, it was the custom to take the panel, visiting filmmakers, and volunteers out to dinner. I was overwhelmed with gratitude in how well the night had gone, so we opted for a huge feast at a local Indian restaurant. And just looking up and down our huge table, eating spicy food late at night, talking about all the wonderful projects our guests were working on, all the questions our students had, the giant smile on our Dean’s face - I knew we had created something truly amazing.

And now it’s the 10th year of this Festival. It has continued to grow and become even more amazing. The little green EFFY monster, a creation that our team discussed in circles during the festival’s third year (would he damage the professionalism of our festival? Would he inject a feeling of fun and whimsy into our marketing? Would people be confused by him?) now wanders the halls of Kroon during April - alive and fully life-sized. I wore the EFFY monster on my graduation cap in 2012, a testament to how central he and the festival were to my experience at FES.

I feel honored to have been part of something so wonderful as EFFY, and it makes my heart sing knowing that it did not die, as so many student efforts can when their champions graduate and move on, but rather it has become even bigger and better than what I ever imagined it could be.

So congrats on your 10th birthday, EFFY. Here’s to 10, 20, 30 more!



This coming year's 2018 Festival will be the 10th Annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale! We are thrilled that EFFY has continued to bring together the New Haven, Environmental, and Media communities for each of these past ten years. We are thankful to the people and the community that have made EFFY the impactful festival that it has become.

As always, the festival will be free, and open to the public. In addition, in celebration of the 10 years of EFFY, we invite our long-time, committed EFFY-goers and past EFFY-affiliates to submit their story - tell us a little bit about why you come to EFFY each year, send us a poem, or photos, or favorite EFFY memory! Just email it to yaleeffy@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, the EFFY board is busily working away in the background to get the best environmental films of 2017 for the 2018 festival. We look forward to another wonderful festival this coming April!

With sincere thanks,

Emma Crow-Willard, EFFY 2018 Director

Message from the EFFY 2017 Directors

For the past nine years, the Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) has provided a stage through which filmmakers have showcased the environmental tragedies becoming all too commonplace across the United States and the world. In 2016 our festival screened 22 different films (to over 1,500 attendees) from all over the world, with topics ranging from unsustainable logging in SE Asia to strip mining in Appalachia, and nearly everything in between. Today, after six months of mental processing, these films and the people whose stories were told within them continue to both influence our lives and haunt our nightmares. 

In 2017 EFFY is firmly established as one of the premier student-run environmental film festivals. Correspondingly, the opportunity to showcase unique films sourced from places far beyond the borders of New Haven, CT has grown exponentially. It is with that opportunity in mind that the two of us, Michael Warady and Anna Fiastro, have decided to jointly take on the role of Co-Executive Directors for EFFY 2017. We have both had the privilege of working with the festival for the past two years, and we have been able to see firsthand the many changes that have occurred as the festival has increased in size. We hope to continue building on the success of our predecessors as we bring audience members a unique, entertaining, and educational movie experience. We are excited to continue EFFY’s awesome tradition of spreading important environmental messages through the medium of film.

While acknowledging the successes of our predecessors, EFFY 2017 will also experience some significant changes from previous years. In addition to the beautiful redesign of our EFFY logo, website, and laurel that you see here (thanks to our Marketing Director Leah Michaelsen), we also seek to institute a more compact and impactful festival. EFFY 2017 will span across four nights of movie screenings, rather than nine as in previous years, and one of these nights will be hosted off of Yale’s Campus (for the first time ever!) in downtown New Haven. EFFY 2017 will seek to establish stronger ties to the New Haven community, as we hope to source films not only from exotic locales across the globe but also from right here locally – as there are countless environmental concerns that exist right outside of Yale’s gates. In addition, it is exciting to see that the quality of film submissions continues to improve. EFFY 2017 has already received 2x the number of submissions that it received in all of 2016! We are honored for EFFY’s brand to be growing so rapidly, and we are excited to begin the film selection process after the New Year. EFFY 2017 will also build on last year’s significant data analytics drive. We hope to gain further understanding as to who our audience members are and how we can best continue spreading the EFFY message to those we have not yet reached. More to come on this later.

Finally, and it should go without saying, we are extremely excited to be joined in our EFFY 2017 adventure by the remainder of our Executive Board members: Leah Michaelsen, Olivia Sanchez Bandini, and Emma Crow-Willard. The team has already put in countless hours as we begin to lay the groundwork for what is going to be an incredible festival just six short months away. If you have any questions about the festival, please feel free to reach out on our website or directly to us at michael.warady@yale.edu or anna.fiastro@yale.edu. See you in April!

-Michael and Anna

Film Review: Planetary

By Alex Co

Backed by expansive shots of landscapes and cityscapes, ethereal Sigur Rós-esque swells and an assemblage of narrators coalescing into a contemplative Greek chorus, Guy Reid’s “Planetary” allows its audience 85 minutes of meditation on humanity’s modern relationship with the planet. The heart of the message comes early: “The kind of intelligence we need is not data, but narrative.” But the film largely peters out from this point as a range of voices, from climate scientists and anthropologists to spiritual and indigenous leaders, contemplate how to cultivate this intelligence.

The emergent narrative of the film is one of mindfulness – becoming aware of more than our individual selves to become aware of everything on the planet and therefore become planetary. It builds and evolves to this evocative idea and allows us to envision what our mindfulness could be and the potential it could hold, but then it leaves us in this nebulous space without direction. Mary Evelyn Tucker of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale Divinity School, who was featured in the final minutes of the film, dug into this in the panel discussion following the screening at EFFY 2016. Having developed her own film “Journey of the Universe,” which was predicated on similar themes, she perceived a “missing connection of inspiration to perspiration.” Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication raised similar questions – is this planetary mindfulness the tool that we need, and if so, how is it scalable? What is the collective narrative that develops from a large-scale mindfulness?

“Planetary,” director Guy Reid noted, was meant to contribute a certain perspective to a narrative already present: that we need economic change, social change, new technologies and more. He also mentioned that not once was “climate change” mentioned in the film, a fitting if trite mechanism to reframe the narrative. But for the team of first-time filmmakers that conducted dozens of interviews and traveled to 65 cities to capture the sweeping footage, their efforts create a visually stunning tale of mindfulness and understanding. And as a full-length expansion of their short film OVERVIEW, perhaps the discussions at EFFY 2016 will shape the narrative of Planetary’s sequel.

Alex Co is a Master of Environmental Science candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies studying safer chemical design guidelines with Dr. Paul Anastas. He is also interested in interdisciplinary work integrating this research with risk assessment theory, communications and rhetoric and environmental justice values to influence US chemical regulation reform and future globally harmonized chemical regulation policy.

Film Review: Overburden

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By Sam Cohen

The war on coal is alive and well—just not the one you’ve heard about in the news. The 2016 Environmental Film Festival at Yale screened Overburden, a documentary about the people living in Appalachian coal country. The film, directed by Chad A. Stevens, captures the coal industry’s power in the region and its ability to fracture close-knit communities.

In Overburden, two women formerly at odds come together to fight for economic justice, miner safety, and to help break Coal’s century-long stranglehold on southern West Virginia. But the documentary, spanning seven years, is not a straightforward tale. The accepted narrative around coal mining and mountaintop removal is complicated by the diverse set of views held by those living in the heart of Coal Country. The film transcends the political banter by capturing real stories of West Virginian’s looking to come to terms with the realities of their coal-centric economy.

Both of the film’s protagonists have deep ties to the coal industry. Lorelei Scarbro’s son-in-law is a miner as was her late husband before he succumbed to black lung disease. In 2006, Massey Energy sought permits for a 6,600-acre mountaintop removal project on Coal River Mountain, adjacent to her property. The film follows Lorelei as she and a group of local activists push for an alternative wind power development on Coal River Mountain. As the mountaintop removal project advances, their tactics get more and more desperate—first phone calls, sit-ins at the State capitol, and finally physically impeding the company’s efforts.

Betty Harrah was an ardent supporter of the coal industry until April 5, 2010 when her brother and 28 other miners died in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion—the worst such incident in 40 years. A subsequent investigation found the same Massey Energy directly responsible. Betty joins forces with Lorelei and makes it her mission to improve miner safety and to see that Massey never again operates in the state.

It is difficult to connect the issues these two women fight for with the broader climate policy discussions or the economic drivers that have sent demand for coal plummeting. But the connections are there and miners are on the front line. They’re the first to suffer as the industry declines—many are resentful of what they perceive as attacks from outsiders who know little of their struggles to earn a living. At the national level, the industry uses the image of these miners and their hardscrabble work to beat back environmental and public health criticisms.

Through impassioned speeches, tense standoffs, and heartbreaking tragedy, the film shows how companies like Massey have effectively pitted friends and neighbors against one another. Lorelei is forced to defend her place in the community and fight against the notion that she is an uncaring environmentalist.

As the film ends, both women are committed to continuing the fight, and their struggles have led to a few victories. Permits for mountaintop removal projects are now exceedingly hard to acquire and only a small portion of Coal River Mountain has been mined.

Just recently, Massey Energy’s former CEO Don Blankenship was charged with a single misdemeanor and sentenced to one year in prison over his company’s culpability in the Upper Big Branch disaster. At the panel discussion following the EFFY screening, Ms. Scarbro was adamant that the light sentence is an insult to the dead miners and their families, but it was still hard to believe that a coal industry executive could be indicted and convicted in a West Virginia courthouse. To her it signaled a subtle shift in the right direction.

11052881_4237836181157_4520166111102685689_nSam Cohen is a second Master of Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies studying water resource science and management.

EVENT: Zika Documentary Screening at Yale

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By Dana Patterson

"They came from remote areas of Paraíba, a state in northeastern Brazil. They are everyday women and doctors. Pregnancy is a time of waiting and discovery. Together, they are moving science forward and learning how to survive the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil."

EFFY is proud to co-sponsor a screening* of Zika, a documentary about the stories of women effected by the Zika epidemic in Brazil by Deborah Diniz. It will be screened on April 8th from 4:30-6:00 pm in Sage Hall, Room 24 (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies).   A conversation with Director Deborah Diniz will follow the film.  Light refreshments will be served.


About the Director: Debora Diniz is Co-Founder and Vice Chair of Anis: Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender, one of the key feminist groups dedicated to bioethics in Latin America. An anthropologist by training, she is now a professor of the Law Faculty at the University of Brasília, in Brazil.  As a documentarian, her films received more than 50 prizes. One of her documentaries on abortion was the first film to ever be exhibited at a Supreme Court public hearing. She has strong advocacy experience working with the Brazilian Supreme Court on cases on involving abortion, marriage equality, secular state, and stem cell research. Her research interests are reproductive and sexual rights, human rights, penal systems, and research ethics. Diniz has written many academic books and papers on bioethics, feminism, and human rights in several languages.

This event is sponsored by Health and Environment at Yale, Environmental Justice at Yale, Yale Environmental Women, The Global Health Justice Partnership, Yale Law Students for Reproductive Justice, The Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice and the Environmental Film Festival at Yale.  

*Zika documentary is not an official selection of the Environmental Film Festival at Yale, however, EFFY is excited to collaborate on spreading the word on this important issue and fully supports this event. 

Interview with Steve McDonald of Rainmakers of the Nganyi

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By Jordan Gardner

In western Kenya, people have long listened to the traditional forecasts of the Rainmakers for seasonal crop planting – forecasts based on intense natural observation. But climate change has begun to cast doubt on the traditional forecasts with shifting, unpredictable weather patterns.

In Rainmakers of the Nganyi, filmmaker Steve McDonald follows an emerging partnership in which the Rainmakers began working with scientists to better forecasts together, and, critically, to improve communication of the forecasts to the Nganyi people. At the intersection between traditional and modern, Rainmaker and scientist, lies a path forward for western Kenya amidst the shifting ground of climate change.

JG: Why did you make this film? Did you approach it from the perspective of telling a new kind of climate change story?

SM: The aim was to tell the story of the Rainmakers and scientists as it is. They are doing fascinating work together to mitigate the effects of climate change, but there is still a sort of friction that exists in the ways of thinking and I wanted to try to capture it.

JG: What do you care about when directing a film?

SM: I want to get as close to being invisible as possible. If people can behave the way that they usually do and start to forget that you are there, or to feel like we're in a conversation and not an interview, then I think you get the best material and the story starts to become real.

JG: What do audiences want? Is it the filmmaker's role to worry about that?

SM: I think audiences want to see and learn new things, so a fresh story or perspective is the first thing they're drawn to and that's cool because it means that you, the filmmaker, constantly need to be looking at things from a new perspective.

JG: What advice can you give people wanting to get into the business?

SM: Go out and shoot right away. Use whatever you have right now - equipment, stories, time. I shot my first video on a $500 camera and it ended up on Nat Geo. It's tempting to say 'I'll be able to make good films once I have this camera', or 'once I've done this course or have more time'. Just go and make the damn film!

JG: What areas would you like to explore in the future?

SM: I'd like to learn more about 'indigenous knowledge' systems. I was really drawn to the supernatural element of 'rainmaking' and I learnt a lot on this project.  There is loads more out there that classic science can't really explain, but that is very real and relevant. I'd like to make more films that explore that.

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Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He’s from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Interview with Director Brandon Kramer of City of Trees

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By Jordan Gardner

“Life has two roads: you can take the hard, constructive road. Or you can take the easy, destructive road. A lot of people in the community took the easy, destructive road — and their offspring were left without guidance. It’s a vicious cycle and the chain needs to be broken.” - James Magruder, City of Trees

Brandon Kramer

In the wake of the Great Recession, unemployment in Ward 8 of the nation’s capital rose to more than 25%. When the nonprofit Washington Parks and People received a $2.7 million grant, organization director Steve Coleman used the opportunity to provide employment for hundreds through tree planting and urban park reclamation. City of Trees follows the stories of three of these men as they work to affect change in a time of hardship.

Director Brandon Kramer’s film reflects his dedication to social justice and the personal stories that embody it. A Washington native, Brandon’s familiarity with marginalized communities has allowed him to study the complex world of nonprofits and social impact.

JG: What inspired you to make City of Trees?

BK: In 2010, my brother Lance and I met Steve Coleman, the Executive Director of Washington Parks & People.  At this time, the entire country was immersed in an important conversation around how to get ourselves out of the recession.  Steve shared with us that he had received a $2.7 million stimulus grant to create one of the largest urban green job training programs in the country here in DC. He was hoping to train hundreds of people in the city who were struggling with long-term unemployment by teaching them how to take care of parks and trees in under served neighborhoods of the city.  Lance and I went to visit the Green Corps one day, and became immediately fascinated with this story.  We felt we had an opportunity to tell a very intimate story about the national recovery but in a hyper-local and long-form fashion.  As storytellers, we are interested in stories that dig into the messy truth of social change efforts, and telling these stories through the perspective of a few people over a long period of time.  The two year stimulus grant window provided a perfect structure to document the experiences of this organization and its people during an incredible moment of change and struggle. We became fascinated by how these kinds of interventions not only changed the people’s lives that WPP was trying to reach, but how it changed the organization and the staff themselves. We also had a very unique situation in that Washington Parks & People is a nonprofit that believes in the power of independent storytelling and journalism. Steve and the staff provided unfettered access to allow us to document this period through its successes and challenges. As observational documentary filmmakers, this allowed us to capture the story organically, and authentically document what happened as it was unfolding.  WPP stood behind this bold notion that telling an authentic story was more important to the public interest than advancing a specific communications objective.

JG: How did you approach using film to tell the story of the recession in DC?

BK: A recession is a time of economic struggle that is felt by individual people’s lives. To us, documentary filmmaking is at its best when you are able to capture people trying to persevere through a challenge they face. We knew we did not want to try to tell ‘the story’ of the recession. We wanted to tell the story of a few people during this moment who were trying to create change for themselves and for their communities. The film documents a very small sampling of that moment for the country and for the city. Naturally, at tough moments in people’s lives, these moments are best shown visually and through sound.  Being out of work can be best translated through observing how someone is static, not moving and silent. Getting back to work is often observed through the motion, movement and noise that comes with working.

JG: Do filmmakers have a responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story? Why or why not?

BK: Documentary filmmaking requires deeply engaging with culture. It goes way beyond a responsibility.  It’s not a footnote or something that is nice to do if you can. To tell an effective, ethical, meaningful story, you must be fully absorbed in the culture of your character’s lives, and come to terms with how that relates to your own culture, community and background. I don’t think your culture as a filmmaker needs to be the same as your subjects in order to help tell the story, but if your story does not “get” the culture that you are documenting, then the story will not work. To get to that place of cultural relativism requires a thoughtful, but also intense, messy, and vulnerable process of asking a lot of questions, falling on your face, and being unafraid. It requires a delicate process of knowing the limitations of inquiry and telling a story about a community and lived experience that is not your own. You can feel this process deeply in any film. It’s something that you feel at your core, a deep trust or mistrust, empathy or angst, that is part of the film watching experience as much as the filmmaking experience.

JG: What role have film festivals played in your life? Why are they necessary and how do you get the most out of them?

BK: For filmmakers, film festivals keep us all sane and connected. You work for five years, mostly alone and in small teams, building and wrestling with a piece. Festivals provide supportive spaces to bring the story into the world.  Most festivals understand what the filmmakers and subjects went through to get to the point of having a completed film, and they exist to provide a supportive first connection point between the filmmaker and the public. It’s an important step in learning how the piece actually engages with audiences, for better or worse. Festivals reward the committed audiences with a movie-going experience that far-surpasses the engagement of your standard megaplex theater.  Some festivals are also therapy for us as filmmakers. They provide a reflective space to talk, unwind, have a beer, and laugh a little about how crazy we all are to embark upon this work in the first place. Laughing is very important.

JG: What areas would you like to explore in the future?

BK: We continue to be fascinated with the process of social change. At a very base level, my brother Lance and I would like to play at least a small role in making the world a more loving and kind place for the children we may have one day. We are strong believers in people, programs and efforts that work toward positive change. But we feel that at times the storytelling and narrative around this important work is either forgotten altogether, or told in a highly reductive, manipulative, or simplistic way that actually doesn’t allow the public to understand what’s working, what’s not, and have healthy and honest conversations about how to strengthen our communities At Meridian Hill Pictures, part of this work as storytellers comes through training people who work in nonprofits and schools how they can better tell their own story through accessible tools like iPads and iPhones. We are also in post-production on a sister film to CITY OF TREES called PROJECT SING, which looks at a different effort of social change through a highly-personal and authentic lens. In PROJECT SING we focus on a program aimed at using community organizing to reduce isolation of seniors in lower-income neighborhoods of DC. We’ve been following a group of 20 seniors over the course of three years to tell this story.  We’re hoping that later this year we can enter the edit of this story.

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Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He’s from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Interview with Dayana Andrade and Felipe Pasini of Life in Syntropy


By Jordan Gardner

Dayana Andrade

“Changing the point of view can be an attitude seemingly simple, but it has always been what’s guided the most revolutionary transformations we know.” - Dayana Andrade




Felipe Pasini

Ernst Gotsch has spent his life immersed in farming a path of least resistance. From complex crop systems in Switzerland and Germany to soil restoration in Costa Rica to Agroforestry at his farm in Brazil, Gotsch has kindled the idea of ‘syntropic agriculture’—order, cooperation and symbiosis among crops. The far-reaching benefits of syntropic agriculture extend to biodiversity, soil health, stabilized microclimate, and even carbon sequestration. In a new short made for presentation at COP21, filmmakers Dayana Andrade and Felipe Pasini explore the experiences of agriculture as an environmental benefit.

JG: What inspired you to make Life in Syntropy?

FELIPE: Our biggest inspiration is the agricultural work of Ernst Gotsch and the remarkable results he's been achieving, as well as those who have learned from him. "Life in Syntropy" - and all Agenda Gotsch Projects - was a kind of need we felt, I would even say an urgency, to show people that all those fantastic and revolutionary experiences were happening right here, right now, even though not much appears in the mainstream media.

JG: What has made environmentalism important to you personally?

DAYANA: Unless we find another planet to live, I think environmentalism is an important issue for all of us. The problem is that this conclusion often leads us or to desperation or apathy. But, when we find people who are making their path in line with nature, then you see how happy they are, healthy and full of energy, that is touching! I think that was the point in which I realized what environmentalism should mean to me.

JG: What was the most important lesson you've learned that's had a positive effect on your film?

DAYANA: I believe that the most important lesson was well expressed by a journalist of "World Organic News" who said that it isn't the question of how are we going to change the world anymore but, instead, when are you going to join the ones who are already changing it.

JG: What areas would you like to explore in the future?

FELIPE: I have to confess that the agriculture subject took me, and I think there is no way back. The good news is that agriculture is a very broad theme. We can talk about farming from many points of view: nutrition, health, politics, economics, society, culture. In the end, it’s an issue that concerns all of us, no matter whether you live in the countryside or the city.

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Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He’s from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.


Interview with Kathleen Jayme of Paradise Island


By Jordan Gardner

Kathleen Jayme

In short film Paradise Island, filmmaker Kathleen Jayme travels to Boracay to unravel the stories of the island behind the explosion of tourism. She focuses her storytelling on the local children, who spend their time making sandcastles for money, to intimately convey life in the tourist hub of the Philippines. Jayme works as a Production Coordinator at the National Film Board of Canada, and serves on the Executive team of a non-profit organization, Surfrider, to protect the world’s oceans and beaches.

Paradise Island was featured at the Canne’s 2015 Short Film Corner.

JG: Where did the idea/inspiration for this film come from?

KJ: The first time I saw the children of Boracay making sandcastles, I knew I wanted to make a film about them. I wanted to know who they were and how tourists like myself were affecting their lives. They stole my heart from the very start.

JG: Was there any one moment that really stood out to you while making this film? What was it?

KJ: My cinematographer, Mackenzie, and I spent three weeks in Boracay and we shared so many great memories with the kids. I think one of my favorite parts during the shoot was when we'd put the cameras away in the evening and we'd all play soccer on the beach.

JG: What's something you learned making Paradise Island that you didn't know before?

KJ: I initially made this film because I was angry with what was going on on the island (and realized that I, as a tourist, was part of the problem).

However, when I began shooting and interviewing locals, I learnt how complex the situation really was.  The tourism industry was not wholly problematic—because of it the locals of the island were able to feed their families and send their children to school.  After coming to this realization, I knew I had to convey this complex situation to my audience.

It is my hope that Paradise Island captures the complexities of the situation while connecting tourists to the issues faced by its residents. Paradise Island showcases the beauty and destruction of Boracay, but more importantly, the hearts of the island’s children whom we often forget. It is this group of children that gives us a reason to respect the land and to do our part to protect Paradise Island.

JG: What films have been the most inspiring to you personally, and why?

KJ: One of my favorite documentaries has to be Blackfish because of the movement that it started. I believe that documentaries are a powerful medium that can reach the masses to affect change and Blackfish is a documentary I believe achieved this.

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Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He’s from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Empowering Action Through Storytelling and Film


By Matt Goldklang


Paul Lussier, professor of both graduate and undergraduate environmental communications at Yale University, sees limitless possibilities in environmental films. As a producer before coming to Yale, Paul realized the power of storytelling and value-congruent narratives with regards to environmental change. He saw the world falling prey to the categorization of climate change as a “science” problem. As a pioneer of humanistic communications, Paul is changing the way people interact with the broader idea of climate change. It is no longer separate from the intimacies of everyday society.

Environmental problems are commonly told through the paradigm of science and data. Paul sees this as only one paradigm for assessing human relationships with nature. Science is not the sole discourse that enables knowledge. Belief, whether it be in religion, political systems, or cultural values, are all discourses with huge impacts on knowledge and action. Films allow us to marry the language of science to other, more comprehendible human values. Storytelling becomes a narrative vehicle, in which both scientific understanding and human values together influence individual and societal action. A scientific treatise on climate does not nearly have the same power as a story about a boy who carries his dog for miles on his back to escape a flood.

The lack of values in our dominant modes of science communication has created an action gap within environmental action. The Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY), as Paul says with delight, bridges this action gap not only because it increases the viewership of these films, but also, it creates conversation around them. The panels morph into discussions with agency. People are greatly affected by these films, and EFFY captures that moment, allows people to share their concerns, and connects people through shared value. Community building is a complex communications challenge to tackle, and EFFY enables the necessary connections."

The community response to EFFY also exemplifies a larger undertaking that storytelling provides: learning a new language. For those who are concerned about the environment, and can only speak on behalf of their own experiences, through film, learn to speak through the lens of storytelling. Films connect stories. These connections are tangible. Festivals, such as EFFY, are essential in helping advocates connect a variety environmental values and the value-holders into a network. Attendees see how different stories and values can be integrated into a network within the greater Earth system, Paul posits. Nature doesn’t operate outside humanity, and humanity doesn’t operate independent of nature. Films, with their immersive, visual storytelling, deconstruct the human-nature dichotomy.

matt goldklangMatthew Goldklang is a senior at Yale University studying Geology and Geophysics, and Energy Studies. He focuses on climate change and energy communications, and works at the Science Communications Network with Impact (SCWIN) at Yale.

Interview with Director Ted Wood of Unacceptable Risk

The Springs Fire, Banks-Garden Valley, Idaho, Boise National Forest, August, 2012; Idaho City Hotshots

By Jordan Gardner

Ted Wood

In 2014, Colorado had one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. Climate change has pushed summer heat to new levels, brought lengthier droughts, and increased the prevalence of disease in forests across the western United States. All of which spell out heightened risk for deadly forest fires out of the norm. Filmmaker Ted Wood and The Story Group—a Boulder, Colorado based multimedia journalism organization, specializing in environmental stories—set out to document the escalation of fire in the West through the eyes of those who know it most intimately.

JG: Tell us about what it was like to shoot this film and to convey the story of the firefighters on the front lines.

TW: Because the fires had already happened, our shooting was mainly confined to the firefighter interviews. We had to construct the film around a tight script that would lead the firefighters from fire to fire. Firefighters are an interesting breed. On the one hand, they pride themselves on toughness, on being part of a team, and have a certain paramilitary attitude towards being seen as heroes or talking to the press: they don’t like it. On the other hand, they are great storytellers, and have utterly amazing stories to tell. One firefighter we interviewed almost told us as an afterthought that his own house burned down while he was sending fire trucks around his neighborhood to help his neighbors, and there weren’t any left to protect his home. Another teared up as he described how it “scared the crap” out of him because his daughter had begun a career in firefighting and was entering a new era of volatile uncertainty. Once we got them talking, they were incredibly compelling.

JG: How do you use film to tell stories?

TW: My colleague Daniel Glick was an editor for the National Climate Assessment in 2014. From this, we learned that human-caused climate change was part of this new normal: longer fire seasons, hotter temperatures, and changing vegetation were all contributing to produce dangerous conditions for firefighters and the communities they are sworn to protect. We wanted to find a way to personify this science, and could not find a better way to tell that story than through the eyes of these firefighters who were witnessing these scary changes first-hand.  Stories with a strong narrative, high emotional content, charismatic characters and strong visuals can engage an audience in a powerful way unique to film.  There has to be a transference possible– where we can feel what the subjects in the film are feeling– for the film to be successful.  If our audience realizes from this film that we already have a glimpse of where our climate is going if we don’t change, then we’ve told a successful story.

JG: What’s an important lesson you’ve learned that's had a positive effect on your film?

TW: In communicating environmental issues, you’ve got to have film subjects who are either trusted sources or seen as common people to have the greatest impact on audiences.  It’s important to get as close to the ground as possible.

JG: If there is one thing you think would make the film industry better, what would it be?

TW: Put resources back into good storytelling and scripts rather than blowing things up.

JG: What areas would you like to explore in the future? 

TW: I’m interested in exploring topics in the emerging field of environmental psychology.  Where that takes me, I’m not sure.

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Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He’s from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Interview with Michael Ramsey of Moving the Giants


By Jordan Gardner

Moving the Giants is an upcoming short film at this year’s festival about the California Redwoods. The short film explores not only trees’ response to climate change, but ours as well. As longtime sinks of atmospheric carbon, trees have a critical role to play in current and future struggles to moderate carbon dioxide levels. We caught up with Director Michael Ramsey, the owner of Boulder, CO production company Spoken Image, to learn more about his film and his take on reaching audiences.

JG: Tell us a bit about 'treequestration'.

MR: Treequestration was coined by Daniel Glick, one of the executive producers of our little film. During our research, we found quite a few references to expensive and outlandish geo-engineering schemes meant to sequester excess carbon in the atmosphere. Of course, trees already do this and trees do it without unpredictable side effects while also providing myriad "eco-services" critical to maintaining life on this planet. From this perspective, massive scale "treeequestration" could prove to be a no nonsense and very inclusive strategy to combatting climate change that we can utilize right now.

JG: What about Moving the Giants is of special, personal importance to you?

MR: For me, Moving the Giants is interesting because the debate about whether or not our climate is changing has been concluded. The zones in which the redwoods have traditionally thrived have changed and now, to find the humid environments that they might thrive in again, we have to move North, in this case into Southern Oregon. For David Milarch and the Archangel Tree Archive, preserving the genetics of the champion redwoods is the focus, but this applies to all species and assisted migration is being discussed in many contexts including our food crops.

JG: What do audiences want? Is it the filmmaker's role to worry about that?

MR: It probably is the filmmaker’s role to consider what the audience wants. Honestly, I think that when it comes to films, the general audience, myself included, is looking forward to the next comic book franchise because those things can be awesome. I have worked on some pretty visible documentaries and while they have won quite a few awards, they ultimately did very little in the way of changing policies. Robert Downey Jr. was quoted recently saying something that seems very true… It sucks to work on low budget films because they usually suck. I think MTG bears witness to this in some ways, it is a very small film but there is a big idea in there. In the end, it was just a camera and limited time and resources and I had to just let it go, in hopes that it might further tree planting efforts and further discussions about things that we can all get directly involved in right now rather than feeling defeated and powerless.

JG: What are some of the platforms you find effective in reaching people?

MR: As far as effective platforms go, this is where little documentaries can be very satisfying. I have done some Q and A's at film festivals and one that we had at BANFF film festival sticks out. One very enthusiastic audience member came up after the screening and she was fired up. She and her husband were retired and looking for something to commit their considerable energies to. After some wine and our collective whining about humanity's state of affairs they committed to getting involved. In fact, they pledged a considerable amount of money to tree planting efforts and the production of a film that I am working on now based on NY Times science writer Jim Robbins' book The Man Who Planted Trees. So, in that way, documentaries sometimes have the endearing effect of a hastily handwritten note delivered to a stranger rather than a zillion dollar, ingeniously marketed superhero franchise. I do think that it would be a wonderful challenge to revive the uber-creative tradition of Super Bowl ads but use that visibility to pitch hyper sexy ads about tree planting, helping each other out, you know, things like that, but sexy. Why not find one solution to one of any of our global problems and feature a 30 second film during the World Cup that offers everyone that wants to do something beneficial in the world a turnkey solution? That would be a platform well utilized, I think.

Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He's from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Interview with Director Chad Stevens of Overburden


By Jordan Gardner

Chad A. Stevens > director, producer and principal cinematographer. Stevens is an Emmy-winning filmmaker, editor, journalist and professor. The director has won a national Emmy Award for New Approaches to Documentary Programming, has been nominated for three other national Emmy Awards, received an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award and received two Webby Awards in Documentary. He is a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, frequent international and national multimedia journalism speaker/coach and holds a M.A. in visual communication from Ohio University.

“In the process called mountaintop removal coal mining, “overburden” is a term used to define the rock, soil, trees and ecosystem that lie above a seam of coal. This overburden is blasted and bulldozed away to access the coal below. It is shoved into valleys, discarded, much like the people who live and work in those valleys are cast aside.” -Chad Stevens

Kentucky native Chad Stevens’ film Overburden is about coal in America, though not one you might expect. It digs deeply into the personal stories shaped so profoundly by the coal industry—blowing apart the façade of simplicity on this issue by following the story of two women in the wake of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. In his coverage of Appalachian coal country, Stevens asks us to move beyond polarized debate and humanize the people in whose lives coal is embedded to reach a new understanding of the coal industry in America.

JG: How did you come to make this film, and how did you approach telling the story?

CS: The moment I saw a mountaintop removal site, I was changed forever. At the time I was focused on still documentary photography and therefore began photographing these scenes of destruction. Then I met the people affected. The families living in the valleys below these massive mining complexes, and I saw how their lives were changed, sometimes destroyed, sometimes ended too early. This also changed me and ultimately led me to create this film that not only tells of the environmental destruction of coal mining but also the impacts on communities and families.

The biggest challenge was building trust. This community has been abused by the media in the past and therefore have become very defensive and cautious when dealing with the media. It took time, it took years, for me to build the trust and gain access to the families who eventually allowed me to tell their stories. This is a gift I will always be grateful for, and a gift that makes the film what it is today.

JG: What was it like to tell such a personal story, especially as it intersects with larger themes of environmentalism?

CS: The access I was given by the families, the trust that was built over time, these are all essential to telling a more personal story, a more human story of what could be easily qualified as an environmental film. My goal was to make it more than a film about the environment, focusing instead on themes that can allow the audience to see our similarities, not our differences. And through that experience, I hope we can gain some understanding and empathy for those dealing with environmental impacts of something like mountaintop removal coal mining.

JG: What do you think the biggest surprise about the process would be to an outsider?

CS: I learned that some stories require, not only hard work, dedication and heart, but time. It's because I had time - nearly 10 years - that I was able to create an intimate story that hopefully takes viewers into the lives, struggles and joys of these families. It's all about connection. That has always been the goal.

JG: What is the best thing that's ever happened to you while shooting?

CS: An interesting question. There are endless gifts - these deeply human moments that we, as filmmakers, are allowed to witness because we’ve been given the gift of access. But the moment that really stands out to me when asked this question, is a time on Kayford Mountain when filming a young black bear ran across the rubble of a mountaintop removal coal mine. For me, that intersection of nature and human’s impact on the land was fascinating, and devastating.

JG: What are some of the platforms you find most effective in reaching audiences?

CS: This is an ongoing journey. We are continually trying to reach larger audiences, through traditional distribution methods and through educational screenings. But we are experimenting with some ideas that we hope can lead to more engagement with communities facing similar challenges. As Lorelei says in the film, if we can just find the things we can agree on and work from there, then we can move forward together. That’s our hope.

Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He's from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Interview with Director Fran Lambrick of "I am Chut Wutty"


By Jordan Gardner

Fran Headshot2

Chut Wutty was a Cambodian environmental activist in the Prey Lang forest. He led the Natural Resource Protection Group, protesting illegal deforestation and military involvement in protected forest areas. After confrontations with the military, Chut Wutty was shot and killed. Telling the story of the activist’s dedication to protect Cambodian forests and the livelihoods dependent upon them, filmmaker Fran Lambrick spoke to Wutty just before his death—and followed the Prey Lang Network’s response in the wake of his murder. Dr. Lambrick has researched and worked in the Prey Lang forest since 2009.

JG: Looking back, what was it like talking to this Cambodian activist just before he was killed?

FL: It was wonderful and terrifying. I feel very lucky that I got to meet Wutty – he was immediately engaging, asking questions, full of energy and with a very clear purpose. He was quiet but audacious. And it was scary because Wutty was attacked the day I met him. We were at a Prey Lang Network protest in the forest – 500 people occupied an economic land concession and and burnt huge piles of illegally cut timber. I was sitting with Wutty, a bit away from the others, and we saw the military trucks arrive. Wutty guessed they were after him, "Shall I run away? – But where would I go." He hesitated and decided to stay – "Well, I'd like to see what they do". They came up behind us – I snapped photos, as the conversation got more heated, suddenly the soldier grabbed Wutty around the neck and threw him to the ground. Military police and soliders surrounded us, looking up I saw a pistol and an AK47 pointed at us. I moved backwards into the crowd, and at the same time the network rushed forward, a handful of men and women bare-handed rushed in front of the guns and pulled Wutty out of the soldiers' grip.

Later in the village guest house, I was waiting for gunshots. Soldiers sat outside all night, but they never broke in.  It took a few weeks for me to find the courage to interview Wutty a second time, at his office in Phnom Penh. He looked better – less harrowed, but still somehow taut. Looking back I wished I had asked him more personal questions – but also I know that it is the way he wanted it. Talking to Wutty he always made it clear that the story wasn't really about him – it is the story of the forest, the communities, the long fight for independence. He had such courage because he was focused on ending injustice.

JG: How did you approach telling the story of Chut Wutty through film?

FL: I always wanted the film to show more than to tell. Even before I met Wutty, I wanted the film to be quiet in a sense, without narration, but showing the story as it was unfolding – with voices of the people involved. Film is very powerful visually – you can do as much to depict a character or an atmosphere with one intimate shot of a person's face as you can with a long interview clip.

To show the events when Wutty was killed we wanted to create a sense of immediacy, of being with Olesia and with Wutty, but we didn't have the footage to show that, so we decided to use animation. We were very lucky to work with art director and animator Septiawan Putra, who created a gritty, stylised depiction of the scene. Cutting from the animation to the real photos after the shooting gives a sudden tragic sense of the reality.

We also wanted to build in as much lightness and small but telling interactions as we could – even humour. So we had a part where Wutty is interacting with the network to plan their campaign, and he teases one of the members who is acting shy.

JG: Do you as a filmmaker have a responsibility to culture? Does it require you to tell a particular story? Why or why not?

FL: I have a responsibility to people as a filmmaker. I feel a responsibility to tell the story of the people who I film in the way that they would want it to be told, to represent them fairly, and to show my own experience transparently. I don't think there is ever any requirement to tell a particular story – there is only motivation or compulsion. I am moved to tell a story because I see the experiences and the feelings of the people living it. The only principle that guides that motivation is honesty, which doesn't exclude creativity or interpretation, or even manipulation in certain ways.

JG: What do you think the biggest surprise about the process would be to an outsider?

FL: I think the hardest thing to explain, perhaps surprising to an outsider, is the strange process of telling a story with film – especially a real story. It's like you have to have a strong idea in your mind of what you want to tell when you start out, and you have to cling on to that otherwise you would get lost in endless possibilities. But at the same time events are happening and threaten to knock you off course, the story changes as your telling it, so there's a kind of dance of holding fast to the idea and responding as things happen. – A documentary is like finding a wild animal, and you can sort of make out a path through the forest, you're trying to cling on to the animal as it chases down the path – as far ahead as you can see. But you could get thrown off, or kicked, or lose the path, – you have to hold on to the direction in your mind, but also respond to what happens.

JG: What are some of the platforms you find effective in reaching people?

FL: I like meeting people best, I think that nothing compares to face-to-face discussion. But the internet is wonderful for sharing stories too.

We are building a campaign from the film, using story-telling to spread awareness about the risks faced by environmental defenders around the world, starting with Cambodia – with Chut Wutty's story and the violent attacks on Cambodia's forest defenders, to the current situation, where we have three young activists in jail, facing trumped up charges and held in a cell with about 12 others – each with less than 0.5 meter square of living space, 20 hours a day.

These are young activists in their twenties, they are the activists continuing Chut Wutty's fight. Last week I asked one of their group, why do you do this work to protect the environment – he said "It is because of love. Love that is not to say, a way of speaking, or an intellectual ideal, it is really from my heart, for nature."

Jordan Gardner is a sophomore at Yale University studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He's from Colorado, where he enjoys the beautiful outdoors fueling his passion for the environment.

Festival Reviews: Exclusive Q&A with EFFY Executive Director

Lisa ED

This article was originally published on FestivalReviews.org. Read the original post here

By Matthew Toffolo

Brazilian trash workers, killer whales, and food waste all share one thing in common–they’ve been featured in the largest student-run environmental film festival in the world. Mark your calendars—the 8th annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) is taking place from April 1-9, 2016 in New Haven, Connecticut. This festival draws audiences of over 1,700 each year and several films that have been screened at EFFY in years past have since won Oscars, Emmys, and are now shown on Netflix. This festival was founded by a group of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and it has grown to include the greater Yale and New Haven communities while maintaining inclusivity through FREE admission for all.

Interview with Lisa Veliz:

Matthew Toffolo: What is the festival attempting to accomplish for filmmakers and the attendees? Lisa Veliz: The goal of EFFY is to shed light on environmental issues through the medium of film. We work diligently to make this festival inclusive for all through free admission and diverse in terms of content throughout the festival.

MT: How many countries represented the festival last year and in 2016? LV: This year we have received submissions from over 26 countries, and we are currently in the process of reviewing films for final selection. Last year, we had films from over 30 countries.

MT: How did the festival get started? LV: The festival was founded 8 years ago, by a small group of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. It started with a few films over 2 days and it has grown to encompass over 20 student, feature, and short films over 9 days.

MT: Where do you see the festival in 5 years? LV: My 5-year vision for EFFY is to take a front seat at the table with the premier environmental film festivals worldwide, and to leverage the network of both student-run festivals as well as environmental initiatives to ultimately reach larger audiences than ever before.

MT: How is the film scene at Yale University? LV: I’m very new to the film scene, so I’m not sure I can speak to the film scene on campus at-large.

MT: How many films do you anticipate showcasing at your 2016 Film Festival? LV: We’ll be showcasing 22 films (features, shorts, and student films).

MT: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect for the 2016 Festival? LV: We’ll be integrating virtual reality experiences, a special Youth Film Summit, and a few Sundance films!

MT: What are your feelings on certain high ranking US politicians who feel that there isn’t any environmental issues happening around the world? LV: I don’t understand why we’re still debating the severity and legitimacy of the environmental crisis we face today. We don’t need more proof of extreme weather conditions and mass species extinction to understand that we are at a turning point in the history of this planet. These issues affect business, the economy, public health, and–most of all–our children. I think climate-denying politicians will surely be in for a rude awakening.

MT: When did you join the festival? Is it always a student run affair and handed off to a new group every 3-5 years? LV: I stepped up as ED in June 2015, and it’s been an interesting process to think about the succession plan, because our Master’s programs are typically only two years long–it makes succession planning very challenging. We’re working on making EFFY more integrated into the fabric of the university and particularly at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

MT: If I am attending the festival in New Haven, what else should I see? Landmarks etc..? And what restaurant(s) do I need to go to? LV: I’d recommend hiking up to East Rock, dining at Caseus or Da Legna, and going for drinks/pool at Bar. These are my New Haven favorites!


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Inspired by EFFY: Locals Unite

scott and sonya

By Matthew Goldklang

Film is an unconventional avenue for action. Reality footage enables people to connect to issues, places, and people far removed from the audience.The Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) provides a venue for screening and discussing impactful films on modern environmental challenges. Sonya Wulff and Scott Gray, a couple from Wallingford, found their passion for nature and the environment reflected within the themes of EFFY films, inspiring them to foster discussions about those very films in their hometown.   The couple describes their beginnings in environmental action as rooted in their love for the outdoors and nature. Commonly found on trails around Connecticut, Scott and Sonya are passionate stewards of their local forests and environments. They are “professional volunteers,” maintaining trails and engaging outdoor education. Scott and Sonya explore ideas of nature as a couple. For them, nature is something to share.   Their involvement in EFFY dates back to 2010. It wasn't until 2012, when their working lives had eased, that EFFY inspired the couple to bring film to Wallingford. Their local library had received a grant, and looking for a way to bring their passion to their community, Sonya and Scott requested that the library screen and discuss films from EFFY. The library quickly engaged the idea, and the couple began to adapt a film series on the environment. Their first film was Force of Nature, which explores the limits of nature within the confines of capitalism, and was followed with a discussion.   From the start, the local series was a success. The events brought in growing audiences from the surrounding areas. Scott and Sonya inspired community conversations. Their goals took three demonstrated forms: to expose, to educate, and to involve. People endorsed the screenings “not as experts, but as engaged citizens.” Some of the most popular screenings include GMO OMG and Chasing Ice. The events, however, grew beyond expectations, to include panels with experts and open houses for volunteer organizations. Such experiences provided direct opportunities for community members to get involved. The films and discussions inspired a number of community members, including Scott and Sonya, to testify at the capital on environmental legislation. Scott and Sonya’s passion, with the toolkits provided at EFFY, activated community building around environmental awareness and values.   The couple has their calendars blocked off this year for EFFY. They are excited to learn more and to enable others to grapple with environmental issues in our world and its resources. Sonya and Scott, when asked about expansion of their program, thought other local communities could benefit from screening the films locally. As they continue to act on their environmental zeal, they hope their community’s annual inspiration is renewed and that others join the cause.   Matthew Goldklang is a senior at Yale University studying Geology and Geophysics, and Energy Studies. He focuses on climate change and energy communications, and works at the Science Communications Network with Impact (SCWIN) at Yale.

Film Review: The Revenant

By Leah Michaelsen

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s thrilling western drama, The Revenant, is inspired by the real-life experience of American frontiersman Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) when his fur trapping team leaves him dead following a brutal bear attack. The film depicts a savage story of endurance, revenge, and justice set against a stunning backdrop of frigid landscapes and inhospitable terrain.

Set in 1820’s American territory (present day Montana and South Dakota), the film features visually breathtaking scenes shot mostly in a remote area of the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary, Alberta, and filmed entirely with natural light. The expansive, untamed wilderness combined with veteran cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s vision for crisp, radiant imagery throughout the film makes for a stirring and beautiful portrait of the natural world, captured on screen.

At the same time, the gripping portrayal of one man’s battle for survival amidst a barren landscape reminds the viewer of the power and volatility of the natural world. While filming, the cast and crew battled frequent sub-zero temperatures, frozen terrain, and unpredictable weather patterns. Off screen, the glaring reality of our changing climate was made clear when, near the end of filming, the crew was required to travel to the southern-most tip of South America to find snow covered landscapes to finish shooting. Twice during the 10-months of filming, production was shut down due to seven or more feet of snow melting in a 24-hour period…highly inconvenient for a film that takes place entirely in a snow covered expanse.

After accepting his much anticipated award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 2016 Academy Awards, DiCaprio took a moment to emphasize the imposing threat of climate change to our planet. “Climate change is real,” he said. “It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating."

Few modern films of this size and scale dare to capture our natural world with such striking aesthetics, and without the use of predominant digital enhancements. Not only does the film deliver cinematically, but The Revenant tells a compelling story of human determination and willpower while weaving together themes of survival, revenge, and the brutality of both humans and nature alike.

leahLeah Michaelsen is a staff member at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.

Film Review: Zootopia

By Ariel Russ

Zootopia is an entertaining, family friendly film, that showcases the various animal members of an anthropomorphized society that is full of witty animal puns and creativity. Thrust into a world of diversity, the viewer can relate to many of the themes showcased in the film.

Judy Hopps is a charismatic, passionate, and idealistic rabbit who dreams of one day becoming a police officer. With hardwork and determination, Hopps earns a position in the Zootopia Police Department, which is traditionally composed of larger species. She befriends a sly fox named Nick Wilde, and helps crack the case of missing animals who are wreaking havoc on the town’s long-established peace and tranquility. Along the way, Hopps learns that benefitting society at large is more important and more difficult than she anticipated.

In the city of Zootopia, different neighborhoods and varied climatic zones like rainforests and tundra, cleverly weave together the urbanized and wild environments in elaborated detail. Moreover, Zootopia is teeming with stereotypes like energetically breeding rabbits and more accurate depictions of animal behavior like slow sloths.

While the film teaches the viewer about the predator-prey dynamics in the city of Zootopia, what it fails to address are certain environmental aspects. The film could have benefitted from creating a more realistic harmonized animal kingdom that was less urbanized. Zootopia could have been used to showcase the resourcefulness of animals with respect to scouring for food or creating shelter rather than showcasing animals operating flower shops and visiting ice cream stores, which would demonstrate the sacredness of the animal since this “wildness” is what creates the distinction between “human” and “animal.” In the end, Zootopia is a message about an urbanized environment and society where distinct species can peacefully coexist and even work together for the success of the city once diversity is acknowledged as being a strength of a society rather than a weakness.

arielAriel Russ is a first year Master of Environmental Management candidate at Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, Connecticut.