The First Acadia Environmental Film Festival a Success, Say Student Co-founders

This past November, Acadia students Robin Lawson and Raymond Wieser developed an entirely new event on the Acadia campus and in Nova Scotia: the Acadia Environmental Film Festival. The festival was a project towards completion of a fourth-year Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESST) course.

The Acadia Environmental Film Festival ran from November 3-13th, featuring six films in total. Each film was followed by a reflective discussion between the audience and guest panelists. What began initially as a plan to screen films for students evolved into a project involving a number of members and organizations within the community. Wieser and Lawson were able to meet for an interview to discuss their thoughts about the festival, as well as broader topics regarding the environmental crisis.

Why did you decide to create and produce an environmental film festival?

Lawson: Raymond is extremely passionate about film. I’m more passionate about environmental education.

Wieser: We decided to combine the two, and then we took it a step further and added  discussion to that, with community members or people in [environmental] fields.

Lawson: Showing movies is great, but allowing people to expand on their own ideas gives them a place to learn more. We couldn’t be as effective in educating [the audience] if we didn’t have a meaningful discussion afterwards.

Wieser: If you have someone in the field locally come to talk, then they can give a local perspective on what’s happening.

To put it bluntly, why do you care about issues pertaining to the environmental crisis?

Wieser: First of all, I’m in ESST, but it has mainly to do with the way I grew up as a child. I’ve actually never lived in a city, nor a town. I’m from the middle of nowhere, in the forest! My elementary school was a Waldorf School, which had a huge focus on Mother Earth and the planet, so that had a huge influence as well.

Lawson: From a very early age I’ve understood the connection between people and nature. Another reason I care about environmental issues is because they impact human lives, and I love people. People aren’t going to exist if they don’t have an environment that can support them. We need to start supporting our environment so it can continue support us. It’s a symbiotic relationship that a lot of people forget.

What goals were you trying to achieve through the festival?

Wieser: Our main goal was to educate students on environmental issues through film. Movies are played on campus all the time but rarely is there a time to discuss them, and rarely are they environmental-based films.

Lawson: It was a way to build further connections between Acadia and the community.

Wieser: For example, people throw things in garbage cans and recycling bins everyday but they don’t really know who deals with it, so I think having [a panelist] from Valley Waste come and talk was really good because it gave people an idea what happens to their waste.

What was a highlight of the festival for each of you?

Lawson: Actually, the film that didn’t end up happening, Billions in Change. We were competing with the Bob Rae [lecture] and a few other things happening around Wolfville, so we didn’t end up having an audience, but we had a panelist, Richard Zurawski. He’s an amazing man. So we had him and an Acadia professor, Leo Elshof, who’s another amazing environmental activist and educator. They’re really good friends, so they just ended up sitting with us and talked to us about the state of the world and the education system. It made me think about some things that are connected that I’d never [realized] were connected. That was the highlight for me.

Wieser: The highlight for me would probably be either that same night, or working with Fundy Film on the first night [on the screening of] This Changes Everything. They’re a really cool organization and they bring a lot of really cool things to Wolfville. They work with TIFF so getting to work with them was like, “Yes!”

Lawson: Susan and Bill [of Fundy Film] are a really, really amazing couple too. They’re wonderfully inspiring people and were supportive of us and excited about what we were doing.

What is the most pertinent environmental issue that the films portrayed?

Wieser: [All of the issues] are very pertinent, but the most important one is water.

Lawson: Yes, water and the health of our oceans. Which relates to a lot! Because it’s such a broad issue, and everything else reaches out to it, like energy production, food…

Wieser: Bottled water.

Lawson: Every environmental issue goes back to it.

Wieser: If we were going to isolate one film that is important for people to see today, I would say Billions in Change. Even though no one came to see it, it’s the most important because it deals with what is currently being done. It’s dealing with a group of people who are working all around the world in different scientific communities, [and it deals with] what they’re doing now to help the environmental crisis.

Do you hope that other students will pick up from where you left off?

Wieser: I hope so! I mean, that was the point with our film festival. We also ordered more films that we couldn’t show because they weren’t in the library already. We ordered more for the library to have for the future.

Lawson: It would be great to see somebody pick this up and continue on to make it an annual thing. And have it grow, maybe it would get as big as Devour! Which was another event we were competing with! That was one of the points of the project, as we’re graduating, to leave a legacy at Acadia. To leave something behind. It would be really nice if people were to continue.