October 13, 2016
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Flickering Green on the Silver Screen
by Soumyaa Kapil Behrens
Rachel Caplan, editor of San Francisco Green Festival, dresses up in plastic bag costume to propagandize for recycling. photo: SF Green Festival
The verdurous first annual San Francisco Green Film Festival (
) makes its debut on March 3-6 at the Landmark Theatres Embarcadero Center Cinema and Bently Reserve. Led by executive director, Rachel Caplan, the festival is investing in its own green-ness and bringing a fresh approach to exhibition, fusing together a program of environmental activism and artistic filmmaking.
The festival strives to create inspiring programs that incite dialogue. As Caplan says, “It uses film as a spring board for advocacy and encourages collective action within the audience.” Her hope is, “to create a global center for green minded film and media here in San Francisco.”
SFGFF has a broad series of events planned for this March including a live satellite chat session with writer and activist Margaret Atwood, after screening "In the Wake of the Flood" by veteran director Ronn Mann, a documentary about her work. Werner Herzog’s narration takes center stage in "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" made with Dmitry Vasyukov along the river Yenisei in northern Russia.
Other treats like Miranda Bailey’s, "Greenlit," all about green film production, and "Good Fortune" by Landon Van Soest depicting consequences of western development in Kenya fill the weekend with thought provoking, engaging work from distinct perspectives. Perhaps Herzog himself will manifest on such a stage of environmental delights?
The festival is also hosting a vibrant schools program and bringing Bay Area students to the festival. In Fall 2011, SFGFF will team up with local youth media non-profit, TILT, to sponsor a class for students; their completed projects will be screened in the 2012 festival.
What does it mean to think green? Well, that’s precisely what SFGFF hopes to unravel with their ambitious project.
“We want to define what green can mean,” says Caplan. “It is a constantly evolving adjective that addresses issues spanning race, gender, economics, systems and policies.” The festival plan is to keep the definition as wide as possible and allow the meaning of green to transform from year to year. The festival leaders facilitate this by matching films with organizations, individuals and companies to contextualize the work in a current world atmosphere. This creates a strong sense of now-ness and buoys the films with urgency towards action. The programs are designed as pathways or entry points, guiding the audience to a scenic spot from which to take in both the films and their relationship to current environmental issues. Instead of catering to a niche crowd of environmentally minded folks, the festival hopes to use this approach to draw new audiences into the environmental discussion.
“There are a lot of dry stereotypes associated with environmental films,” says Caplan. “We are trying to avoid that and the common doom and gloom feelings. We want to empower our audience rather than make them feel hopeless about the future.” The festival’s nexus located in the Bently Reserve further represents this positive take on advocacy/artistry. The aim is to stimulate a central meeting place for filmmakers, policy makers, audiences and generations of families. A place to continue the conversation and induce dialogues that go beyond a question and answer venue. Caplan is creating, “a hub, a string of events that are a catalyst to advocacy.” She is sure this is something anyone can participate in, regardless of how he/she may have entered the green game. “This is a green for all movement.”
But starting a movement has its challenges. In their first year, SFGFF is often a labor of love, luck, and community support. SFGFF affords a small office in downtown San Francisco at Ninth Street Media Center through an economical program for fiscally sponsored media projects called the Ninth Street Media Incubator Program. Caplan raves about having a hub of her own as she launches this dream.
“It is phenomenal to be working among this community of filmmakers and festivals instead of just me at my kitchen table. Ninth Street is fantastic.” SFGFF also relies heavily on individual donations and sponsors. It has launched a new kickstarter campaign to raise funds for bringing special guests to the festival as well as funding interactive events to connect people from all over the world to the festival. You can find more information about contributing to the campaign
Other local sponsors like New American Media have also committed to pitch the SFGFF and its films to the non-mainstream ethnic media, which will extend the reach and impact of these issues to new communities. Many films have a matched sponsor who assists with promotion and outreach. The festival is grateful for the widespread beneficence thus far and tries to cultivate those partnerships as an audience-building tool. The wider the audience SFGFF can envelop into its hub, the greater chance it has of affecting meaningful change in the environment and inspiring excellence in environmental filmmaking.
“The environment is a becoming a human rights issue. There is a great need for the eco-diaspora to be seen,” says Caplan. “We need to represent these ideas here, in a city that represents the idea of green.” Embracing a new wave of global filmmaking, the San Francisco Green Film Festival has many surprises in store this year. Check it out and find your own way into this new wave of green up on the silver screen.
Posted on Feb 23, 2011 - 11:22 PM