The Festival’s slogan, this year, is “What kind of future do I want?”
It is a simple but at the same time complex question -say the organizers, Ivana Jovčić, festival director, and Vladan Šćekić, film programmer- The current situation in the world has pushed us to ask the audience, but first, ourselves, in which direction we want to go as civilization: towards prosperity or towards a total disintegration of our society? When you get this, this question becomes the key one. And the answer will lead us to one of the two potential roads to the future».
How does the global pandemic relate to the Festival’s issues?
«It changed our lives in so many ways, but the root of this situation comes from the mess we created in terms of exploiting nature and deteriorating it: polluting air, water, soil, greenhouse gas effects, waste, fossil fuels, etc. We had “too much on our plate” and the “punishment” came quickly».
Coronavirus forced you to go fully online. Was it a challenge?
«It was almost like creating a new festival, considering that the first 10 editions have always been held in a physical space. We had to devise a way to transfer the festival experience online and to take in consideration a huge number of technical aspects in order to implement our program, starting from building a new online streaming portal, with intuitive navigation and ease of access to all the content, and developing a protection system from illegal downloads, in order to comply with film distributors requests. And, above all, to secure the funds for this year’s festival edition. To be honest, it was not so easy. But, in the end, all of the pieces came together and we are satisfied with the final result».
The audience appreciated this new format and the number of visitors even grew compared to the last year, since the content was available to the entire population of Serbia. «This came as positive feedback, leaving us with the impression that this change has even more potential in the future to communicate important issues to our audience and reach more people interested in environmental topics in the Country».
AND THE WINNERS ARE…
These are the winners for each category of the Festival, selected by the international Jury of the Green Fest 2020.
Best Nature Film 2020
The award goes to Heartwood (Italy 2019, 60’) by Stefano Petroni.
A young Italian activist visits ancient cultures in Latin America to learn how to stop the spread of agricultural destruction and in the process, his life is changed forever.
«The message I try to give is to inspire people to connect with nature and think of it as part of us. With the film, I also try to inspire people to make a stand in their places, community because we need to be our heroes and protect the plants for us and future generations», states the director, at his debut behind the camera.
You have found some very interesting stories all over the world, but yours is not only an “exotic” film because it also shows Europe, specifically Italy. Why this choice?
«I wanted to fight for my land: I come from Puglia, which is the Italian region suffering from Xylella, the bacteria which is killing millions of olive trees. I fell in love with one of them in particular: unfortunately, after so many attempts, it died anyway. We acted too late and I suffered a lot».
«Thank you for taking the time to watch this film and make all the work that I put in worth something, there is no best reword then an engaged audience -ends Petroni- I also thank The Green Culture Fest for this opportunity to spread the voice of this person that needs to be heard. They are not famous or rich, but their story needs to be told as an example of life».
Best Animated Film 2020
The award goes to Gott ist schon weg – God Has Already Gone Ahead (Germany 2018, 10’) by Peter Böving.
A pair of Nile goose, “brought in” by the Roman legions, settles around 53 bC at two small ponds in the fictitious village of Eichweiler, in today’s brown coal opencast mining area of Garzweiler. From the bird’s perspective, the viewer is guided through the eventful history of the settlement in 30 scenes. While the water level in the ponds continues to fall, the inhabitants have the water up the neck. The film does not end with the present but in the future. When all people have left the place. But the Nile geese come back to start anew.
God Has Already Gone Ahead is a film that tells a part of human history as pars pro toto of a small village unit, animated with Lego figures, in an entertaining and instructive way.
«The central idea of the film is that I want to show our use of resources, by making a physical experience. In order to convey this, the earth in miniature format was the obvious choice. I try to find my way to express my messages without annoying the people with it, because you only reach the people you already have on your side anyway», states the director, who comes to the environmental themes for the second time, after his “Patata Day” in 2016.
«My thanks go to the Belgrade Green Fest Jury and to the Thuringian State Chancellery, who supported this film. It is already the 33rd award for this film, but it still feels as exciting as the first time».
Best Short Film 2020
The award goes to A Short Film About Ice (UK 2020, 29’) by Adam DJ Laity.
A film-poem documenting the journey of a cinematographer through the changing landscapes of the Arctic. The camera bears witness to the shapes and colors of glaciers, tundra, mountains, and sea ice while the filmmaker explores the role of the human and the artist in such landscapes in the time of the Anthropocene.
«The message of my film is essentially that humans and nature are inter-connected in ways that are hard to understand and that lack of understanding has caused the break-down of our global climate system. But art and specifically cinema can at least give us the chance to explore and play with the trouble we currently find ourselves in», states the director, who wants to reflect the role that humans have played in terms of scarring and ruining landscapes around the world.
The documentary is as poetic as it is deep and intense: how important is the choice of images and music to convey the message?
«A Short Film About Ice is a really personal film and attempts to deal honestly with the effects of the eco-anxiety and poor mental health I was suffering when I shot it. So the film was very much written when I sat down to edit it, which had to be a slow and thorough process. I think that editing is largely about finding the rhythm of the story, and so you’re constantly trying different image sequences with different pieces of music. But it’s important that the music doesn’t lead the story, but rather compliments the images. I hope the music I chose ended up feeling like the voice of the landscapes I had shot».
«Thank you to the festival organizers and the jury for selecting A Short Film About Ice for the Best Short Film award this year -Laity adds- I’ve been really impressed at how the festival has gone ahead in spite of the pandemic and I’m grateful that our film was programmed amongst such a compelling and imaginative group of films. Festivals devoted solely to exploring environmental and ecological subjects, like Green Fest, are vital in terms of keeping conversations about climate change alive, and developing new ways of representing and communicating about these difficult subjects».
The jury also awarded a special mention
to Good Job (Poland 2020, 8’) by Piotr Biedroń
Mr. Smog, a diabolic creature of fog and dust, takes on a human form. As every year, he orders a worker to dig 44,000 graves to bury his future victims. The heat, no more space, and a broken digger slow him down. How are they going to solve this problem? Can they make it before winter?
«Since the problem of smog in Poland is very serious, but the Polish government still neglects this topic, I wanted to make something to shock the audience: the number of graves is how many people die because of air pollution in Poland every year -states the director- Black comedies are difficult to make, but showing a problem through humor, combined with a shocking final scene, will always be remembered by the viewer».
Best South-East European Film 2020
The award goes to Ashes (North Macedonia 2020, 19’) by George Lazov.
In the near future, where a virus is spread because of the pollution from the factories, children and people die coughing and are born deformed. A young married couple struggles with the knowledge that their 8-year-old daughter will die in a few days.
«This is the first film in which I worked on an environmental theme -the director says- I chose it because it is inspired by true events in my Country. Specifically, in my home town, there is a factory that pollutes the air, but at the same time, it is the main economic stability for the town. What is more worthy, the economic stability or the health and the environment?».
You are dealing with a central issue for all the Balkans, imagining a society of the future, but also very much linked to today’s one. Why this choice?
«In the Balkans, the progress of consciousness towards the environment has always been a problem, more now than ever. As a visual storyteller, I decided to do it in a bleak dystopian future, so i can tell the story also through the visuals, the different colors of the rooms, and the subtext from the production design and the costumes. Also as a warning to the audience of what can our future become, if we continue to live the way we do».
Lazov’s message is strong and clear. «We should care about the environment we live in because it cares for us too in return. I hope that this kind of films and festivals can make social and impactful changes in our society».
Best Youth Film 2020
The award goes to Ecolove (Russia 2019, 24’) by Dmitry Grigoriev.
Lisa, who lives a fully zero-waste life on her own, meets a guy, who pays interest in her. Suddenly her eco-freaking starts to freak him out.
«She is the kind of a person we are starting to meet around in our lives, and those people are going to change (and to save, maybe) our world. I wanted to show the story with such character, since so far we haven’t seen them in fictions films yet», says the director, who is now making some videos for the environmental organizations.
Were you inspired by some real characters and/or elements in today’s Russian society? Can this be a strength, also to get the message across to young people?
«I had a kind of prototype for Lisa, thanks to a girl, living in Russia and working for Greenpeace. I get inspired by brilliant people and initiatives. Furthermore, contemporary Russian society inspires to talk about its problems, which are huge and abundant. But I believe that soon Russia will be free and the planet will be green!».
Best Film up to 1 Minute 2020
The award goes to Ninti (Spain 2020, 1’) by Juan Francisco Calero Hueso.
“I arrived on this planet by mere accident. It was a pleasant surprise… But now I face danger”.
«My short film is an explicit message of the urgency of the current environmental crisis. Our own life is in danger, today. The Earth will probably still exist for a few million years more, but we have been our worst enemy to ensure our own survival on it. We’re so close to the point of no return, and I want the audience to be aware of this», states the director, who uses to touch universal problems as empathy (also with other beings and with Mother Nature), self-esteem, and the fight for what we believe in.
To make his message to strongly impress the viewers, Calero Hueso chose a riddle structure, with a revelation at the end, which helps to get the idea stuck in the audience’s mind.
«Humanity has always worked together when it fears a global danger. We have to acknowledge the environmental crisis as the biggest threat we’ve faced in our history. I hope that my small film could help a bit in building that awareness».
STATEMENTS OF THE JURY AND THE ORGANIZERS
The International Jury of the Green Fest 2020 consisted of three members: Ana Iñigo, a Spanish biologist; Daniel Pavlić, a film director and organizer of the Smaragdni Eco Film Festival in Croatia; Francesco Rasero, an Italian journalist specialized in environmental communication.
The jury watched and analyzed the films for each category and based its rating on quality, originality, interest, above all, the impact of the environmental message and the way to spread it.
After an individual review, the team met to comment, assess and point together with the films, selecting the winners.
«The most interesting fact is that we had a common opinion about with the winners -Ana Iñigo says- All the films are clear in their message and transport the viewer to the tragedy of the environmental deterioration, showing the importance that natural resources have for us. They give the alarm about what can happen if we don’t reconsider our current actions to reverse the future: some of them have very clear and good information, while others, using different scenarios or circumstances, move the mind to reflect on what we are doing and how to change it. In addition, all the selected movies have particularly good quality, stimulating and maintaining the interest of the viewer».
The organizers of the Festival, Ivana Jovčić, and Vladan Šćekić underline why it was so important to hold the Festival anyways, in this period when the attention of the public opinion and the political agenda is focused on other themes.
«The environment in Serbia never came to becoming a political agenda for our decision-makers, because they feel it is opposed to progress and to raise the economic standard in the Country. Also, for several months, news about Coronavirus took over the mainstream media, social media, and our day to day conversations. However, the habit of survival is one of the strongest drivers of humanity, and we are now learning to operate in somewhat changed circumstances. On the other hand, it is certain that when everything ends, as any pandemic before, we will still have a set of other problems that were just put on hold, like climate change, clean water, air issues, environment protection, sustainable development, etc. That’s why we felt it was still fundamental to discuss these topics, now even more than before, and use this momentum to help people to understand how fragile relationship we have with the living world that surrounds us and it is our prerequisite for existence».
Even online, the Green Fest 2020 is still keeping people updated about the environment through films, debates, and talks, through an inclusive approach, that brings people of all ages and professions together around the one common value: a safe and healthy future for all inhabitants of our Planet.
«Going online helped us to serve our audience in an even better way. Even though the pandemic, we managed to bring films to people’s homes, school, and university classrooms, workplaces, in a simple, yet effective way -Jovčić and Šćekić end- The media are also having a strong interest in this approach and are producing a huge number of articles about the topics of our panels; the ease of access to films and education content also helps us to bring a new audience to the Festival and to engage the viewers.
This online festival edition might lack the human interaction which we got used to, but it definitely opens a new way of communication and interaction that will bring to more citizens aware of the environmental issues and a new generation of young people having an interest in topics that we promote since 2010».
This article has been written by Francesco Rasero, member of the Festival’s Jury, environmental journalist and editor-in-chief of the online magazine eHabitat.it.