The inaugural Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival takes over the Prince Theater in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love this Earth Day weekend, April 21-23.
The three-day festival will feature more than two dozen new, environmentally focused short and feature-length films, which have been hand-selected by a jury of professionals from more than 200 submissions from 34 countries around the world.
“We were first and foremost looking for high-quality films; films that would be entertaining with high production values, well-made films that tell a story and films that are informative and inspiring,” said PHEFF co-founder and executive director Debra Wolf Goldstein in a recent interview with XFINITY. “With the films we have, we’ve tried to hit all three—entertaining, informative and inspiring—and we think we did a good job of that. Also, we wanted the curation to cover a variety of different environmental topics.”
Among the subjects highlighted in the festival’s debut lineup are pollution, sustainable farming, climate change, recycling, water conservation and wildlife preservation.
The festival’s opening night selection, “Before the Flood,” is a critically acclaimed climate change documentary that chronicles Oscar-winning actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio’s worldwide exploration of man-made global warming’s effects on our planet. The movie’s director Fisher Stevens will be in attendance to accept the festival’s first Environment Advocacy Award.
Additional highlights include a regional block of films featuring three documentaries set in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey area and a youth block of films featuring a post-screening discussion with 13-year-old “Plastic Is Forever” filmmaker Dylan D’Haeze. The PHEFF will close festivities with a “throwback” presentation of James Cameron’s 2009 epic, “Avatar.”
“‘Avatar’ was voted one of the top 10 environmental films of all time,” Goldstein explained. “I think a lot of people would be interested to see it on the big screen; maybe they missed it the first time around. Seeing it on your own home TV is not the same as a big-screen and the collective experience of watching with other people. We thought it would be fun to bring it back.”
The Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival was born from the collective efforts of Goldstein, a longtime environmental lawyer who drew inspiration from the annual Environmental Film Festival in Washington D.C., and co-founder/artistic director Alexandra Drobac Diagne, a former executive manager for Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment production company.
“We realized our backgrounds meshed perfectly in the sense that I have the environmental knowledge and background, and have worked with many of the groups who are going to be our festival sponsors and supporters and partners, and she has the contacts in the film industry to really make this a world-class event for Philadelphia, which has such a high-quality and varied arts and cultural offering,” Goldstein said. “Other cities and other countries have similar kind of festivals, but it was time for Philadelphia to join those ranks.”
While this unique event is sure to educate filmgoers on some of the most pressing issues facing our planet and its inhabitants today, Goldstein says the PHEFF is far from a stuffy, three-day university lecture.
“The very fact that we’re showing it at the Prince Theater, which is a grand old big-screen theater rather than in a more academic setting or a college auditorium, is because we want this to be a theater experience, we want it to be a glamorous experience,” she explained.
But, yes, you’ll also get a side of knowledge with your glamour.
“I hope they’ll be entertained and come away learning a little bit more about a topic they didn’t know anything about before,” Goldstein said. “Or they’ll have a deepened knowledge about something that they were interested in already.”
For more information on the inaugural Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival, including tickets, show times and a full list of films, visit philaenvirofilmfest.org.