Washington, D.C. has one. Seoul has one. Bristol, Tokyo, and Turin have one. And now, finally, the Bay Area has one. The first annual San Francisco Green Film Festival will take place from March 3-6, joining a growing number of environmentally focused film festivals throughout the world.
The event seems a natural fit for eco-friendly San Francisco. “When we first started telling people,” said festival deputy director Daniela Rible, “they would pause and say, ‘oh really, there isn’t one already?'”
But favorable conditions just recently coalesced. “The time is right,” said Rible. “San Francisco is seen as a leader in the green movement around the state and around the country. It’s also a hub for many independent filmmakers and film festivals.”
As always, things will proceed uniquely in the city by the Bay. “What differentiates us is that we have the films that we’re showcasing,” said Rible, “but we’ll also be having a lot of panels and discussions. The idea is, people go to the film festival then they go to a panel. It’s a whole day event.”
Festival-goers will move between two venues on opposite sides of the street: the Landmark Theatres Embarcadero Center Cinema and the Bently Reserve. The former will host screenings, while the latter will house a “Festival Hub”– educational programming interspersed with social events. “There’s just going to be a lot of energy around,” said Rible.
That was evident on February 17, at the festival’s pre-screening party. Held in conjunction with the California Academy of Science’s weekly “Nightlife” soiree, the event featured screenings of shorts, along with ecology-themed computer games and tabling by festival staff. Most visibly, two “bag monsters” wandered about, handing out festival postcards and posing for photos.
Carola Di Poi, a festival volunteer, spoke from within one of the suits, made of 500 plastic bags. “It’s pretty heavy,” she said. “I’m pretty hot. But it’s cool to be raising awareness about plastic bags.” Joy Chen, a fellow bag monster, agreed. “It was hot inside,” she said, “but you feel amazing. It’s about environmental action.”
Interactive education will continue at the festival, where parties and panels will riff on issues raised in the films. Opening night will feature Susan Beraza’s “Bag It,” a documentary about plastic bags, followed by a plastic pollution-themed party. On Saturday night, Kevin Tomlinson’s documentary “Back to the Garden: Flower Power Comes Full Circle” will set the tone for a flower-power party.
Other film and event pairings will include a panel discussion on water in California, preceded by a set of shorts on the same subject, as well as a panel on green film production, inspired by Miranda Bailey’s documentary “Greenlit.”
Several filmmakers will attend the festival, representing a broad range of nationalities. Swedish documentarian Fredrik Gertten will discuss his film “Bananas,” about Dole employees in Nicaragua, and Canadian Sean Walsh will attend the U.S. premiere of his documentary “Hauling,” which portrays people who recycle for a living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Huaqing Jin will fly over from China for the U.S. premiere of his film “Heavy Metal,” about electronic waste workers in the town of Fengjiang.
One guest will make a virtual appearance. Margaret Atwood, subject of the documentary “In the Wake of the Flood,” will engage in a live satellite Q&A. “We’re excited to have someone as prominent as her in our first year,” said Rible.
Prominence figures in the festival’s long-term aspirations. “We’d like to be seen as the lead green film festival on the West Coast,” said Rible. To that end, she anticipates “inviting more top-level films, reaching out to more filmmakers, traveling to those international film festivals, and making those connections.”
But Rible also hopes the festival grows locally. “We’d like this to be a year-round event,” she said. “We could maybe have monthly screenings and smaller events that are linked to the festival year-round.”
For now, the focus remains on March 3-6. After a year of planning, the festival leadership looks forward to executing its vision. “The Bay Area is ready for this,” said Rible.
For tickets and a complete schedule, visit sfgreenfilmfest.org.