by Devin Benison
West Mt. Airy’s Debra Wolf Goldstein is a land conservation lawyer who met Alexandra Drobac Diagne – an art historian and former Hollywood executive for director James Cameron – while their sons attended Germantown Friends School. With complementary skills and a shared passion for the environment, their friendship was one that would go far beyond carpooling.
Less than a year after Wolf Goldstein came up with the idea of creating a Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival, these inspiring women made it happen. Now they are back for year two – and they couldn’t be more excited.
The second annual Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival will be held between April 6 and 8 at the Prince Theater in downtown Philadelphia to kick off the start of International Earth Month. The festival will showcase 34 films from around the globe: Nine feature films and 24 shorts that were selected by the expert jury panel as the most inspiring and exceptional environmental films produced this year. The films selected cover a wide range of topics and styles: from straightforward documentaries to artistic explorations.
Eight of the nine feature films and all 24 shorts are Pennsylvania premieres, including the opening film, “Anote’s Ark,” which was recently showcased at the Sundance Film Festival. That film profiles President Anote Tong, president of the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, in his international fight to have climate displacement recognized as a human rights issue. The festival’s opening night also features “Chasing Coral,” winner of the Sundance Film Festival Audience Favorite Award. The film shows time-lapse photography and gorgeous cinematography, divers, photographers and scientists as they set out on an ocean adventure to document the heartbreaking losses of coral in the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere.
Many of the films also feature post-screening Q&As with the filmmakers and environmental experts. Goldstein and Diagne are excited that 11 of the films boast female directors.
“We selected films with the most interesting, informative, and inspiring stories,” Goldstein said. “We want audiences to leave the theater hopeful that they can affect positive change for our planet, no matter what age they are.”
“All of our films are visually stunning and powerful explorations of both the beauty of nature and issues affecting our planet and are selected to appeal to a broad range of filmgoers,” Diagne said.
This year will feature a new Kid’s Planet Program, sponsored by Saint-Gobain, the Malvern-based globally renowned leader in sustainable building materials. It will host a full morning of hands-on activities and exciting environmental films curated for 400+ Philadelphia schoolchildren at the Prince Theater. Chestnut Hill’s Mary Ann Boyer, of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, designed a lesson plan on plastic pollution in our waterways for the program, and Trolley Car Diner’s “Helping Hand” Teacher’s Fund paid for 10 buses for area schoolchildren.
Additionally, the festival will showcase the five top-rated films of the first Student Short Environmental Film Competition sponsored by Drexel University, which received 80 submissions from around the world.
The Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival’s lead sponsors are two prestigious environmental organizations: The Nature Conservancy and Media, Pennsylvania-based Natural Lands, both of which provided essential funding for this year’s festival, together with generous support from an extensive list of environmentally-minded donors and community organizations.
Goldstein and Diagne are excited to honor a few special people at the festival. They will present Jeff Orlowski, director of the powerful Oscar-shortlisted documentaries, “Chasing Ice” and “Chasing Coral,” on opening night with the festival’s Environmental Advocacy Award, compliments of founding sponsor The Nature Conservancy. The festival will also honor Susan Kucera, director of the stunning tour de force “Living in the Futures Past,” produced and narrated by Jeff Bridges, with the festival’s first EcoVisionary Award.
Complete film and event schedule information is available on the festival website: wwwphilaenvirofilmfest.org. Weekend passes and single tickets are on sale now and can be purchased on the festival website or in person at the Prince Theater box office (1412 Chestnut Street; open Monday to Sat. noon to 5 p.m.).