I stumbled upon an annual gem here in DC: a couple of weeks of environmental-themed films at venues throughout the area.
There are about 150 films screened at embassies, museums, government buildings and educational centers. I signed up to volunteer at 5 of them, which means arriving 45 minutes early, greeting guests as they arrive and at some places taking tickets or names for advanced reservations. At the end we also fill out an evaluation form about how the program went and how the venue was as host. I also get to carry around this cute burlap tote bag with the film festival logo: a frog with a film reel tongue.
Friday night I viewed Black Wave, a very disturbing film about the legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I was enraged to hear the stories of Alaskans who lost their liveliihoods, marine biologists describing the impact on the fish and a sociologist telling how a town that had had very high social capital (strong civic life) was now depressed. We also heard the stories of people who had been involved in the cleanup and told the toxic sludge they were working with was safe but they’re now suffering horrible illnesses.
Yesterday I went to a much more hopeful film called Burning in the Sun, about a project to provide low-cost solar panels to villages in Mali that have no electricity. The first beneficiary was a school where before the installation only 20% of the students passed their exams. Afterward, passing rates were about 80% – because the kids now had lights to study by at night.
Part of the attraction of the film festival is seeing a variety of different venues. Black Wave was at an auditorium at Georgetown University. Yesterday’s film was at the Museum of African Art, part of the Smithsonian. (A garden next door had cherry trees starting to bloom and lots of daffodils fully opened.)
Tomorrow night I’m seeing a film at the Swiss Embassy, and it’s followed by a wine reception. Wednesday night is a film at the Finnish Embassy. And Friday I go to the American Film Institute, a renowned theater in downtown Silver Spring, just up the street from where I work, but I haven’ been there yet. (It’s one of the few venues where there is a fee for a film in the festival.)