Fast Forward Film Festival shows environmental concerns
Imagine filming a movie with a smartphone.
Kristen Smith, 17, of Brighton has done just that. The teen’s short film, titled Kristen the Science Girl: Water, is environmentally focused and created primarily with an iPhone. Her work will be showcased among the top entries by other filmmakers at this year’s Fast Forward Film Festival, coming April 21 and 23 to George Eastman Museum and The Little Theatre.
“It’s an opportunity for young people to use their voices for a cause they care about,” explained Rebecca Delaney, film festival director.
While most cities roll out the red carpet for their film festivals, Rochester distinctively and purposefully unfolds the green. Sixteen stories about the environment — ranging from an animated short about bugs to a documentary about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan — will be shown at this year’s festival.
The films — all five minutes or less in length — were selected from 60 eligible entries by Rochester-area professional filmmakers and amateurs, and include six works made by children for the festival’s new youth category.
“Film is a doorway into what’s happening to our environment in a really moving way,” explained Dr. Andrew Stern, a Rochester neurologist and environmentalist who founded the festival in 2015 with the goal of building a stronger Rochester community around environmental concerns. He eventually hopes to help other cities create their own Fast Forward Film Festival.
This is Smith’s second year in the festival. Last year, she was one of two youths whose films were selected in the adult category.
“I think it’s great they added a youth category this year,” she said. “It’s so cool kids my own age can create films about the environment.”
Ben Doran of Pittsford is also making his second appearance at the Fast Forward Film Festival. His film Bugged, an animated short, was made with fellow Rochester Institute of Technology student Miranda Sider of Maryland.
“Bugged is about a little girl who sees all of these terrible things done to bugs,” Doran said. “… She goes into robotics and builds a giant bug.”
Doran, who is majoring in animation, has had his work shown at many film festivals beginning when he was in the fifth grade, but Fast Forward is one of his favorites.
“The gala and the screenings are so well done and the environmental subject is so broad,” he explained. “With there being a common theme, but nothing super specific, people come up with really incredible work.”
A single leaf found by a child is the environmental subject that RIT students Melanie Morris and Noah Lach, both first-time film makers, chose for their selected shortForgotten.
“We thought it was important to create a call-to-action film,” said Morris, who is involved with RIT’s Student Environmental Action League. “One of the big concepts of our film is not just what’s wrong with the environment right now, but what people can do to improve it.”
Make a difference
A call to action is one of Stern’s goals for the festival, which is produced by the Lost Bird Project, a nonprofit he co-founded that uses public art to raise awareness of environmental ideals.
“The goal is to build a stronger Rochester community around environmental concerns,” said Stern. “Stronger local communities are going to be the key factors in the response to global warmings, which is the issue of our time.”
One development that came out of last year’s festival was the creation of an advisory council to the festival made up of community leaders who meet monthly to discuss critical environmental issues impacting the region.
Additionally, since last year’s festival, the number of Friends of the Festival has grown to over 30 organizations throughout the Rochester region. These organizations offer resources, equipment, education and other assistance to youths and adults who want to enter the festival but need some technical or other support.
“We want the community to know that we’re here to help them tell their stories and showcase their environmental perspectives,” Delaney said. “This is really a partnership between artists, filmmakers, environmentalists of all ages and the community joined together.”
At the festival gala at the George Eastman Museum on April 23, awards and cash prizes of $1,000 will be given to first-place recipients, along with other cash awards for honorable mentions and audience favorites.
The 10 selected films in the adult category are:
1. Bugged by Ben Doran and Miranda Sider, RIT. The animated story of a bug-loving little girl who becomes an entomologist in order to protect them.
2. Century by Michael Tomb, Rochester. A short that examines the diversity of environments, species and people.
3. Community Composting by Steven Kraft, Brent Arnold and Michael Giordino, Rochester. The story of a Rochester-based food scraps collection business.
4. Compost by Jim Downer, Rochester. An animated short about rebirth and decomposition.
5. Forgotten by Noah Lach and Melanie Morris, RIT. A single leaf and its journey is the subject of this call to action film.
6. Goodbye, Goodbuy by Jill Peterson, RIT. About what happens to the tons of good items thrown away by students moving out of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s dorms each year.
7. The Inherent Value of Transportation Options tells viewers why modern Rochester requires a transportation system with options beyond automobiles. It’s by Alex Weiser and Ander Kazmerski of Rochester and Erik Frisch, transportation specialist with the city of Rochester.
8. Linear by John Hughes, Honeoye Falls: “A man lives happily on a tiny planet, until he realizes he may not have much time left” is the gist of this film.
9. Reconnecting — An Earthworks Story by Lindsay Cray, Laura Kriegel, Jack Schott, Zachary Welch and Nick Brown, Rochester. The film showcases the nature education work that the local nonprofit Earthworks Institute is doing within the Rochester community.
10. Seedfolk City Farm — Overcoming Food Deserts in Rochester by Alex Freeman and Lisa Barker, Rochester, is a look at Seedfolk City Farm, a nonprofit, multi-site urban farm based in Rochester that engages youth through project-based learning.
Six selected films in the youth category are:
- Apples: Core Dilemma by Asha Hotaling, Rochester, a seventh-grader at The Harley School, discusses the difference between local vs. organic apples.
- The Big Picture by Chris Widmaier and his period 4 Global Environment students from Rochester’s World of Inquiry School No. 58. This film presents an overview of society’s environmental problems and solutions.
- Kristen The Science Girl: Water by Kristen Smith, Brighton. Kristen presents a film about water conservation via a parody of Bill Nye the Science Guy.
- Organically Fashioned: Sofie Cerankosky, Rochester; about a 15-year-old fashion designer who got her start making wearable art from recycled materials.
- The Paris Climate Change Agreement: An Education by Jack Aman, Irondequoit; an educational short about The Paris Climate Change Agreement.
- Filters for Flint by Jeremiah, Joshua and Jordan West, of Greece, a documentary about the West siblings’ response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. This short will receive the Lights, Camera, Action! Award.
If You Go
What: 2016 Fast Forward Film Festival
Day 1: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21. Film screenings and Q&A session. The Little Theatre, 240 East Ave., Rochester (main theatre and theatre 1).
Day 2: Saturday, April 23, 6 to 10 p.m. Festival Gala, which includes reception, film screenings and award ceremony. George Eastman Museum and its Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave., Rochester.
Cost: Thursday, adults $8, students w ID/seniors 65+/Little Theatre members $6. Saturday, adults $30, students w ID/seniors 65+ $25.
Tickets: Tickets for both nights are available online at fastforwardroc.org/boxoffice/Tickets are available online on a first-come, first-served basis. If the events do not sell out prior, tickets are available for purchase at the door.
Jurij Meden, curator of Film Exhibitions at the George Eastman Museum; Muffie Meyer, an award-winning film and television director; Adam Lubitow, film critic for City Newspaper and Anahita Williamson, Ph.D., director of the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.