UK Green Film Festival Preview

JIM ROSS previews the UK Green Film Festival, which will have screenings in Cambridge, and speaks to the director and co-founder

Arts Picturehouse happy in transition 2.0 jim ross john long taste the waste UK Green Film Festival

Film is a powerful medium – and at its best that power can inspire, challenge and educate. The UK Green Film Festival aims to take this power and use it to engage people with an environmental agenda. The latest in the string of film festivals that always seem to fly under the student radar in Cambridge (like the British Silent Film Festival, Cambridge African Film Festival and the travelling London Korean Film Festival), it promises to showcase some fascinating documentary cinema in the city.

In the words of John Long, the festival’s director and co-founder, cinema allows “us to reach out to people who may not ordinarily engage with the environmental movement, but who love great film. We can take good environmentalism from one sphere of life and cross over in to another.” The festival itself will be trying to do this in twelve cities across the UK from the 18th-20th May, and will feature three screenings (one per day) at the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge.

Opening the Cambridge branch of the festival on May 18th is Happy, a film that might not immediately strike you as a conventionally ‘green’ film, which takes an ambitious look at folk across the world and what makes them happy. Long feels, however, that this fits into the more broad scope of the festival. “We like to come at environmental issues from all angles. Happy tackles consumerism – one of the root causes of the environmental problem we face – head on. We chase consumerism to make us happy, our western world is increasingly geared to it, but does it deliver? Are we happy? Or are we chasing the wrong goals? It makes you question your values, then a lot of other, more ‘traditional’ environmental stuff seems to fall in to place.”

Trailer for ‘Happy’

Other screenings include In Transition 2.0 on May 19th, following a number of different community-led iniatives looking to improve their own environments, and Taste The Waste, examining the extraordinary fact that over half our food goes missing between source and plate. The latter has already screened in Cambridge, at the 31st international Cambridge Film Festival, Cambridge’s mainstay cinematic event. The involvement of the host cinemas is clearly important to Long, “they know their local community better than we do, after all. What we do as a festival is pick a selection of the best films available to us in the UK, then our venue parters choose the films from that list that they feel will best engage with their own local audiences.”

A film festival seems an excellent way to engage people beyond those already receptive to ideals of the environmental movement. In Glasgow, for example, they have made the slightly odd choice to show The Terminator as one of their screenings. Long likes this offbeat choice: “I love that – re–casting a classic as an environmental movie. I guess it’s a vision of a future, not too distant from now, a salutary take of the worst case scenario… but you’d have to ask [Glasgow Film Theatre] why they chose it in particular!”

The latest in a number of cinema events to come to Cambridge, the UK Green Film Festival is another gem in the calendar that, sadly, few students seem to know about. These events give the opportunity to see cinema that rarely, if ever, appears elsewhere. This year, in term time, I’ve been lucky enough to attend four film festivals North of reality checkpoint, and the Cambridge Film Trust continues to put on special one-off events outside the main festival year round.

Regarding the goals of the UK Green Film Festival, Long doesn’t necessarily see the methods employed by the festival as a better way of engaging people with environmental concerns. They are, rather, one more valuable tool in the arsenal. “I guess I’d be an advocate of a by-all-means approach, but I do think we need to communicate with people where they are, and not expect them necessarily to come to us.” This coming weekend in Cambridge, however, I’m sure that many of us will.

Trailer for ‘In Transition 2.0’