Film festival to focus on sustainability

photo of the lake

Water is life, and the reasons for its safeguard are the focus of an upcoming film festival at York.

Four documentary films on water will be screened as part of the Focus on Sustainability Film Festival, which also includes a panel discussion with filmmakers, activists and academics, as well as prizes provided by Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Planet in Focus environmental film festival.

The Focus on Sustainability Film Festival will take place Monday, March 19, from 10am to 5pm, at NR940 Ross Building, York University Senate Chambers, Keele campus. The cost is $2 for the day.

The films – Water on the Table; White Water, Black Gold; Carbon for Water; and The Clean Bin Project – look at everything from water as a commodity to water that is used and abused for the purpose of oil extraction and what that’s doing to the surrounding environment and wildlife.

Water on the Table, directed by Liz Marshall and featuring Maude Barlow, was nominated for a Gemini – the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social Political Documentary in 2010 – and won Best Canadian Feature Film at the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival. As a character-driven, social-issues documentary, it explores Canada’s relationship to its fresh water, arguably its most precious natural resource. It asks the question: is water a commercial good like running shoes or Coca-Cola or is water a human right like air?

White Water, Black Gold is an investigative point-of-view documentary that follows David Lavallee, a mountaineer and hiking guide, on a three-year journey across western Canada in search of answers about the tarsands. Working in the Columbia Icefield for 15 years, he has been on the front lines of climate change and how it’s affected the landscape.

Carbon for Water (see below) won the Best International Short Film at the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival last year and the Best Documentary Short award at the California International Shorts Festival. It looks at the people of Kenya’s western province, where waterborne illness is a daily threat. Safe drinking water is scarce and the wood needed to boil it to make it safe to drink is expensive. That means girls and women are sent to fetch wood, often missing school or work and sometimes falling victim to sexual violence.

The Clean Bin Project, winner of Best Canadian Documentary at Projecting Change in 2011 and the Blue Sky Tribute Award at the Vail Film Festival, the film follows three people as they try not to buy “stuff” for one year to cut down on the amount of waste they produced, each trying to outdo the other. It also tackles the larger issue of garbage, and features interviews with an artist and a marine pollution expert.

The panel – consisting of Osgoode Hall Law Professor Stepan Wood, who is also the panel moderator; environmental and Aboriginal activist Ron Plain; and Faculty of Environmental Studies Professors Anna Zalik and Lewis Molot – encompasses the varying array of issues that are associated with the topic of water and which are addressed in the films.  This forum allows attendees an opportunity to both listen and discuss the issues with experts in the field.

The festival is co-presented by Planet in Focus, the Osgoode Environmental Law Society, York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) and the Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration, with support from The Toronto & Region Conservation Authority and the York Centre for Human Rights.

For more information, visit the IRIS website.