Multiple Film Series Showcase Environmental Cinema
In A River Between Us, a former Oregon state politician narrates the simmering disputes over the Pacific Northwest’s Klamath River. In Earthrise, the astronauts who first photographed our world from space discuss the images that eventually inspired Earth Day. The Devil We Know tells audiences the true story behind the polluting of Parkersburg, West Virginia, as depicted in the feature film Dark Waters.
All of these films and more will be screened free to the public over the next two months as part of the Environmental Film Series, hosted by Ohio State’s Sustainability Institute and the School of Environment and Natural Resources, which founded the series in 2015. Seven films were chosen for this semester’s series, which started on January 21.
“The films are all professionally produced and most are documentaries,” said Gina Langen, Director of Communications for the Sustainability Institute, in an email. “We become aware of some of the films because they have been shown on TV, such as on PBS or on NatGeo. Some are chosen because they have high reviews from film festivals… We look for films that investigate a particular problem or provide insight into a topic that is challenging because of its environmental impacts or because of societal practices. We like to include examples from many different aspects of the environment, including pollution, endangered animals or ecosystems, energy advances or emergencies, and so on.”
David Hanselmann, who organizes the series for the School of Environment and Natural Resources, said each screening is followed by a deep discussion into the issues addressed in the film.
“We almost always have two expert discussion leaders, typically one from OSU and one from the community,” said Hanselmann in an email. “They present only briefly then lead discussion with the audience for nearly 30 minutes.”
Langen said the main goal for the film series is to raise environmental awareness, to introduce some of the different and unique environmental challenges facing the world, and to highlight the options for how those challenges can be addressed.
“We strive to find films that offer some level of solutions for the future,” said Langen.
According to Langen, attendance has increased considerably since the film series was introduced in 2015, and Hanselman said, “essays from students in my series-related course show the discussion really helps inform attendees’ knowledge and views of issues in the films.”
OSU will not be alone in screening environmental films this spring. Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse is hosting its first Wild & Wonder Film Series, screening six nature documentaries over six Saturdays, starting on March 14 and leading up to the weekend before Earth Day. According to Studio 35 Co-Owner Rita Volpi, the Wild & Wonder series was made possible by the addition of a second screening room at the cinema, allowing for more community programming.
“Each of these films is inspiring in its own way,” said Volpi in a press release. “The cinematography of Microcosmos and Fantastic Fungi transports you into another world. And Trail Magic tells the story of Grandma Gatewood, a badass trailblazer with connections to Ohio’s Buckeye Trail. Hopefully, each film will leave the audience appreciating nature a bit more & create a call to action to do even more to take care of our planet.”
Volpi said she hopes environmental films like those featured by OSU and Studio 35 might gain wider popularity.
“Climate change is happening rapidly and we are losing federal protections for our environment,” said Volpi in an email. “Films like these can be both uplifting and act as a call to action to care for the magnificent things nature provides to us.”