Global in scope, holistic in approach and deeply humane in its engagement with our imperiled planet, the Eugene Environmental Film Festival kicks off its inaugural year this weekend with a slew of movies from around the world as well as a series of workshops aimed at channeling our concerns into meaningful, positive action.
A recent report by the Trump administration said, “On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees by the end of the century,” as reported last week in The Washington Post. Needless to say, all other political issues pale greatly in the face of impending extinction, so the Eugene Environmental Film Festival gathers unto itself a crucial significance, and the vision it presents becomes a clarion call for our very survival.
Even so, the organizers of the festival seek to celebrate and heal this wondrous orb as well as calling attention to the manifold threats facing it, and us.
“Eugene is just the perfect place to host a film festival like this,” says organizer Michele Eggers, a teacher in social work at Pacific University who moved to town from California in 2015. “The idea is the whole downtown turns into the film festival, creating a whole cultural environment. The whole idea is to create an ambiance.”
Inspired by her experience attending the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, California, Eggers sought to re-create that festival’s broad scope. “We’re trying to incorporate lots of perspectives on the environment,” she says, noting that the films range from documentaries on the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, fracking in Texas and the problems of light pollution to the threats to indigenous Earth practices around the world.
“We’re really addressing the seriousness of this stuff,” Eggers says. “Then we have other films, too. We have a mix. It’s not just all heavy stuff.”
To this end, there are films that celebrate lush and thriving ecosystems around the world — such as Confuir, with its gorgeous footage of the Rio Maranon in Peru, the headwaters of the vast Amazon River — as well as inspiring portraits of activism and resistance that provide a blueprint for vital action.
Festival co-director Ana McAbee, who is Eggers’ student at Pacific University, says she attended the Wild and Scenic fest as part of her thesis in social work, and she’s applied what she’s learned to the Eugene model, including setting up a series of workshops, discussions and even a yoga session in order to help people integrate the sometimes-troubling information presented in the films.
“We created a community platform for conversation,” McAbee says, including panels on indigenous rights, environmental justice and “amping up resistance.” The workshops and films are all at various locations within walking distance of one another, all to create a sense of connection and community.
“We can connect people with people,” she says. “We can connect people with the environment, and create something that’s inclusive, a stronger sense of community.”
“It’s bigger than just the films,” Eggers adds. “It’s about creating a culture. Some of these films make you feel like you’re part of something bigger, and that then is also restorative.”
The Eugene Environmental Film Festival takes place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 5-7, at several locations downtown, including Broadway Metro, David Minor Theater, UO Baker Center, Sam Bond’s Brewing Co., Barn Light, Perugino, Pacific University and Kesey Square. For a list of times and locations, visit eugevoff.org. Tickets are available in person or online, ranging from individual showings to passes. Workshops are free and open to the public.