The 10th biennial Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference takes place next week in Lawrence, Kansas on the University of Kansas campus. This year’s program reflects the continued growth of ecomedia studies, with multiple panels and individual papers scheduled on topics as diverse as digital data, cinematic ethics, and eco-horror. A complete program is available at the conference website (http://asle.ku.edu/) and panel and paper summaries will be posted to the blog next week.
Additionally, for the first time we’ve organized an interest group meeting for Thursday, May 30 from 5:30-6:30pm to give those interested in ecomedia studies a chance to meet, share contact information, and have an open-ended discussion about the future of this unique area of scholarship – which has roots in environmental communication, film and media studies, literary theory, music and sound, comics, artistic production, and more. If you have topics or questions you’d like to see addressed at the interest group meeting please add a comment to this post or email Stephen Rust at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer/director Nick Agiashvili’s independent film A Green Story opens this weekend in specialty (aka arthouse) theaters. From the trailer it’s obvious that the film is part inspirational biopic and part extended commercial for Earth Friendly Products, which makes Ecos laundry detergent and other green-friendly cleaning supplies. It’s a story that works on multiple levels; the subject, Earth Friendly founder Van Vlahakis, is an immigrant who works his way from rags to riches while battling corporate baddies and cancer to make a better life for his family, community, and planet. Let the ecocritical unpacking begin.
Synopsis from the film’s website:
“Van Vlahakis left Greece five decades ago with 22 dollars in his pocket. He arrived in the US hoping for a better future for him and his family. Eftichios – as is his Greek name- not only managed to live the American dream for himself, but also created Earth Friendly Products, a US giant for environmentally friendly cleaning products. His story is not only about transforming his life but also the lives of the ones around him as the owner and CEO of Earth Friendly Products.
“The story centers on the modern day Vlahakis (played by Ed O’Ross), who is diagnosed with cancer and given only few months to live. During this time, he reflects on his early life as an immigrant (played by George Finn) during the 1950’s and ultimately decides to push himself to the limit by closing one final business deal that will concretize his company’s success, even if it means taking on a large corporation that is trying to take over his company.“
Here’s an excerpt from Deadline Hollywood’s coverage of the film:
“After seeing the film we realized how timely the topic was – a film about a pioneer and visionary in green living and how it relates to everyone as Climate Change and Green Living become front and center in the world going forward,” said Randolph Kret from Indican. “The core audience for the film ranges from Greeks who will relate to the themes of community, family and the immigrants dream and to anyone who is learning or becoming a part of the Green Community and how to live a better, safer life in these exciting times of technological invention as we (the world) figure out how to reverse and fix the problems our planet has created through fossil fuels and short cuts.”
A new book by Harvard Associate Professor of Romance Languages Giuliana Minghelli looks to be of interest to ecocinema scholars. While it is another example of a work that closely relates to ecocinema studies without directly saying so, Minghelli’s Landscape and Memory in Post-Facist Italian Film (Routledge, 2013) may be useful to those interested in the relationship between film, environment, and history particularly discussions of landscape as a space situated within the liminal border between the human and non-human.
Here is the full description of the book posted by on the publisher’s website:
This study argues that neorealism’s visual genius is inseparable from its almost invisible relation to the Fascist past: a connection inscribed in cinematic landscapes. While largely a silent narrative, neorealism’s complex visual processing of two decades of Fascism remains the greatest cultural production in the service of memorialization and comprehension for a nation that had neither a Nuremberg nor a formal process of reconciliation. Through her readings of canonical neorealist films, Minghelli unearths the memorial strata of the neorealist image and investigates the complex historical charge that invests this cinema. This book is both a formal analysis of the new conception of the cinematic image born from a crisis of memory, and a reflection on the relation between cinema and memory. Films discussed include Ossessione (1943) Paisà (1946), Ladri di biciclette (1948), and Cronaca di un amore (1950).
Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences-Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus, India, is organising an Ecofilm Festival and Competition on 31 January and 01 February 2014, at BITS Goa Campus. All Ecofilm Buffs are invited. Kindly send your ecofilms for competition to the festival on or before 30 November 2013. For more details:
Festival: 31 January & 01 February 2014
Last date for Submission of films for competition: 30 November 2013
Last date for Submission of films for screening: 31 December 2013
Send your films to:
Dr. Rayson K. Alex
Assistant Professor of English
Chamber No. A 305, VOLP: 397
Department of Humanities
BITS-Pilani, K. K. Birla Goa Campus
Zuari Nagar, Goa – 403726
CALL FOR SUBMISSION – Submission Deadline: May 25, 2013
Pirate Cinema–a mobile moving-image installation powered by renewable energy–in collaboration with the Maldives Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, will be presenting a program of short (10 minutes or less) films on the topic of environmental activism, climate change, and its causes and consequences for people and the natural world.
Filmmakers and artists are encouraged to submit short works to be screened in Venice this summer on Pirate Cinema’s solar and bicycle powered screen. We are seeking to include films representing a range of cinematic voices–from activist filmmakers documenting environmental campaigns to experimental artists offering poetic explorations of our relationships to nature and the environment.
Pirate Cinema is an ecologically friendly open platform and catalyst for engaged art, guerrilla promotion, street politics and people’s empowerment. It organizes short and feature films screenings, experimental music, and festivals.
The Maldives Pavilion seeks to bring together artistic responses to the current the ecological crisis facing the Maldives, a tiny island nation which current climate estimates predict will be completely submerged under rising sea levels by 2080. The Pavilion is an eco-aesthetic space, a platform for environmental campaigners, artists and thinkers.Through inviting artists and contributors to the Maldives Pavilion’s intention is to provide a meaningful aesthetic experience and extensive knowledge of the concept of “Contemporary Environmental Romanticism.”
Submission Deadline: May 25, 2013
No Submission fee
Submission format: Preferably Quicktime file via WeTransfer using the email address email@example.com or DVD via post. Please complete the submission form and send with your film via email or post to:
Pirate Cinema, c/o Heath Iverson , 224/2 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4DE, Scotland, UK
This article was contributed by Beth Geiger. Beth will complete her BA in Geography and Environmental Studies BA at the University of Alaska Southeast in May. She grew up in Southeast Alaska, which gave her a strong appreciation of the environment. After graduating, her next stop is New Zealand, where she wants to spend most of my time in the out of doors – instead of the classroom – for a few months. Beth shared with us that ecomedia is a powerful tool that can be used to inform or manipulate, and after taking an Environmental Film class from Professor Sarah Jacquette Ray as part of her undergraduate studies, Beth hopes to incorporate ecomedia studies into graduate school in a year or so.
The Bear 71 Project is available at: http://bear71.nfb.ca
Bear 71 is an interactive, “new media” documentary that intertwines the life of a female grizzly bear living in Banff National Park with other park wildlife, all using surveillance footage from the remote cameras within Banff. Leann Allison and Jeremy Mendes created the twenty-minute documentary, with a powerful narration written by J.B. MacKinnon and read by Mia Kirshner. It is hosted on the National Film Board of Canada’s website with free access. Through the film’s interactive delivery viewers are forced to confront the technological observation of nature – is this a positive tool used to understand other beings, or is this an invasion that further detaches us from the rest of the plant’s inhabitants?
The film experience is for the most part driven by the user, who chooses where to go and what film clips to watch – this means that individual users may have very different experiences. Different points in the digital Banff have different facts about animals living in the park or what sets that place in the park apart. Additionally, if the computer used for viewing is hooked up to a web camera the user appears wherever they go, and upon switching views, all current viewers are shown in a “surveillance wall”, adding to the surveillance feel of the documentary. Not only are the animals in the wild being watched – so are the people sitting at their computers.
There are four film segments that pop up during the exploration for all users to watch where the female Bear 71, as she is known due to her tag number, narrates over footage of her life. This begins with the footage of her being snared, tranquilized, and tagged as a young adult bear. She explains what drug she is tranquilized with as the film shows her being visibly frightened as wildlife rangers scare her away with flares after tagging. The narration continues over the user’s exploration while Bear 71 explains the changes happening in her valley. The park now has human smells, roads, railways, and is rigged with surveillance cameras, wire to collect hair samples, and the only way for wildlife to cross the highway that divides the park are a collection of over and underpasses.
She points out that these days “it’s hard to say where the wired world ends and the wild one begins.” She also mentions that there are no ways to safely cross the railway, and that year each railcars filled with grain leak the equivalent of 300,000 loaves of bread – it’s a smell that is impossible to ignore. Throughout the narration she also points out what she was taught by another bear: that the first rule of survival in this modern age is “don’t do what comes naturally.” Eventually, forgetting this rule is what ends the life of Bear 71 – she and her cubs emerge from hibernation and the next day the starving bears head to the rails to look for grain. She says the train took her by surprise, and she had cubs to defend so she did what came naturally, she roared and charged. Upon this new information the user realizes that this has all been a postmortem narration and this is how the bear knew things like what she was originally tranquilized with and what Google is. Filmmaker Leann Allison has suggested that the postmortem narrative gave the creators a freedom that they would not have had otherwise. Instead of being restrained by anthropomorphizing a living creature, the postmortem Bear 71 can prod the viewer towards an analytical look at technology and surveillance in the modern world without the same argument flaws that come with characters like Smokey the Bear.
Bear 71’s surviving cub is tracked down, tagged Bear 107 and given a relatively low chance of survival due to her age. The film certainly has points that are aimed at emotions instead of intellectual reflection, however these points are part of the overall story. Bear 71 steers clear of the dramatic red herrings of other animal documentaries, such as The Cove. There are mother bears and cubs, but we are being presented with a story, that while probably somewhat dramatized, it is not an over the top account of the bears while disregarding the other creatures inhabiting the area. Bear 71 also makes no effort to cram an opinion down the viewer’s throats – it is a presentation of information that the viewer must make their own decision about what it means to them.
The documentary raises questions about the surveillance of animals, and humans, as well as technology’s role in our modern world. As Bear 71 points out, surveillance is there partly to protect you, and partly to protect everyone else from you.
As someone who grew up with a parent who worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for close to thirty years, the concept of tagging and surveying animals was nothing new to me. In fact, prior to this film I felt like these were positives – we are learning more about these animals to keep them and ourselves safe. But where do we cross the line? Banff National Park is supposed to be an area for nature – are there even any places left that we can consider this way? Randall Telichi, who worked with filmmaker Leanne Allison on her film Being Caribou spoke of the technological web we are weaving around the world and how we are so close to blanketing the entire planet. Are these positive advancements, or unnecessary intrusions? These are the sorts of questions that Bear 71 raises but purposely does not answer. It is the job of the viewer to decide what is right and where the lines fall. As with other films that use this method of a presentation of information and images without a stated intention – such as Manufactured Landscapes – I think Bear 71 succeeds at pushing the users to think critically about our modern use of technology. Is monitoring nature connecting us to it, or is it just another disconnect?
When I first saw all the roads and listened to Bear 71 describe the smells and dangers in her home I found myself not thinking far enough and wanting the unnatural removed from the home of these animals. “Someone get rid of these roads and trains and let the animals live there!” Quickly I caught myself, and decided that thinking along those lines is impractical and lacking any sort of depth. “Okay, well maybe that’s not the solution, so what is?” I went forward thinking during the film and reflecting for hours (and now days and weeks) after about what the right answer is in this situation. Is this just the consequence of not being the animal at the top of the food chain? Should we completely remove ourselves from these areas that have been designated for wildlife use? Does that even make sense that humans are labeling spaces “wildlife areas”, especially considering how far these animals roam when undisturbed? Are we protecting the masses by interconnecting and constantly watching everyone and everything? These are the questions that my generation needs to be addressing in the coming years. Where are the lines with wildlife, surveillance, and technology? Right now these are questions I cannot answer, but I hope to move towards answers and solutions in my lifetime.
Bear 71 was moving, and very emotional without undermining the message of the film – the emotion is part of the story, not a tool for manipulation. The film avoided preaching to the masses by telling viewers a story, along side a bold reminder of how monitored our life spaces are, and allowing room for opinions to be formed by each individual watching. It led me to question my stance on how we monitor animals and how much we do. After the Bear 71 experience I felt like the very best thing I could to was to get away from my computer and get outside – an interesting reaction considering the method of delivery of this new media project – however, my next thought was “will I really be alone if I adventure out into the woods, or will someone be watching?”
Bear 71. Dir. Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes. Perf. Mia Kirshner. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://bear71.nfb.ca /#/bear71>.
“Bear 71.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_71>.
“For Your Consideration: Bear 71.” For Your Consideration: Bear 71. Unknown, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://foryourconsideration.ca/bear71/>.
Geiger, Beth. “Lunch with Leanne Allison.” UAS, Juneau. 14 Nov. 2012. Address.
Geiger, Beth. “Lunch with Randall Tilichi.” UAS, Juneau. 7 Nov. 2012. Address.
Happy Earth Day!
Reposted from pgagreen.org
The Producers Guild of America (PGA) today announced the release of the tablet and smartphone application version of their signature Green Production Guide. The successful, web-based Green Production Guide was first developed to help integrate sustainable practices into the production process and now the corresponding mobile version, available for free download on the iTunes Store and Google Play, will make this information even more accessible to members of the entertainment industry. Studio partners that have helped finance the PGA’s sustainability initiatives include Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Studios, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros.
“With the continued success of the Green Production Guide website, making these resources available in a convenient app format will go a long way in ensuring that sustainable practices are universal in the entertainment industry,” said PGA President Mark Gordon.
Providing the production community with tools to operate more sustainable productions, the Green Production Guide mobile app incorporates the website’s database of over 2,000 vendors offering environmentally-sensitive products and services nationwide, with the option to locate and contact green vendors nearby. And the “PGA Green Unified Best Practices” guide provides entertainment professionals with best practices for sustainable film and television production and offers case studies. The Green Production Guide website additionally offers a “Carbon Calculator” tool which enables production staff to quantify the carbon emissions of their production.
The web-based Green Production Guide (www.greenproductionguide.com), which initially launched in August 2010 as part of the PGA Green Initiative, was developed to further its goal of integrating sustainable practices into its operations and reducing the environmental footprint within the production process. Upcoming productions that have utilized the Green Production Guide include DELIVERY MAN and NEED FOR SPEED from DreamWorks Studios, THE WOLVERINE and TRANCE from Fox, OBLIVION and FAST & FURIOUS 6 from NBCUniversal, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 from Sony Pictures Entertainment and THE HANGOVER PART III from Warner Bros.
The PGA also recently launched the Green Vendor Widget, a tool that gives local film commissions and other entities the ability to embed customized versions of the Green Production Guide within their own digital properties. Film commissions who have already committed to installing the Green Vendor Widget include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The goal is to have the widget installed in the official websites of all film commissions and other entities across the country.
To download the Green Production Guide tablet and smartphone app, please visit www.greenproductionguide.com/app. The Green Production Guide is also accessible via a “resources” link on www.PGAgreen.org.
Arrowhead Water, a subsidiary of Nestle, has recently unveiled a new marketing campaign touting their new ‘Reborn’ Bottle, which is comprised of 50% recycled plastic, and encouraging their costumers to recycle their bottles after use.
(source: Animation World Network: http://www.awn.com/news/commercials/bent-image-lab-creates-stop-motion-ad-arrowhead/page/1%2C1)
As many have noted, over the past decade the practice of Eco-Branding has grown steadily, raising a number of questions – such as what counts as green-washing; when, if ever, can eco-branding and ecocriticism share a common purpose; what is the psychological impact of eco-branding on consumers – that scholars and marketers alike are grappling with. Here’s a link, for example to the blog for Pollan Brands – an advertising agency specializing in eco-branding that seeks to create resonance between brand messaging and brand practices: http://www.pollenbrands.com/category/eco-branding/. At an initial glance, I’m impressed at the kinds of statements Pollan is making about the goals of eco-branding, despite my continued ambivalence about the capitalist marketplace under which such efforts are developing. That said, which I find heartening, particularly their focus on integrating branding into the the culture of the organization. Given Nestle’s track record of exploiting labor and creating myths about breast-feeding, for example, in order to increase sales of baby formula, let’s hope their work with Bent on the bottle recycling initiative is signals an important move forward for their company. Here’s how Pollan defines their approach to Eco-Branding:
“What is Eco-Branding? It seems obvious, but when done properly, it runs deeply into the core of an organization, and just as importantly, it radiates outward to the audience. Both are where many organizations go wrong in their eco-branding efforts. This section of our blog discusses how you can integrate your eco-branding efforts deeply into the culture of your organization, as well as share insight and ideas into how you should be communicating your eco-branding to your audience.”