Watch 55 Films at the 2022 ALT EFF Environmental Film Festival

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The third edition of the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival promises a program of films that will help you better understand biodiversity

The third edition of the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival promises a program of films that will help you better understand biodiversity

As the world shut down at the start of 2020 and the pandemic interrupted life as we know it, journalists Manon Verchot and Sanshey Biswas decided to focus on the winged creatures outside their apartment window in Gurugram. “A pair of shikras (a species of raptor) had a nest in a tree just near the edge of our apartment, and we spent hours for a few months watching them go from egg to fluff balls to fly the nest,” says Manon, who covered these fascinating discoveries in her award-winning documentary, Neighbourwhich will be screened at the upcoming 2022 edition of the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival (ALT EFF).

By making this documentary, Manon says, they “started to understand what biodiversity means in a way that we didn’t know before.” “We often assume that cities are concrete jungles with very few wildlife. But there is actually a whole world of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals living near humans. It was fascinating to observe the resilience of so many species in a heavily populated region like the NCR,” adds the Director.

Manon Verchot

Manon Verchot | Photo credit: special arrangement

Climate Conversations

Boasting a line-up of 55 films with 33 Indian premieres including Ek Tha Gaon, anything that breathes, turtle under the ground, this year’s festival includes “stories about the environment, and our critical relationship with the ecosystem and how we preserve and live in sync with it,” said festival director and co-founder Kunal Khanna. Major themes include forests and oceans, conservation, activism, capitalism, urbanization, indigenous wisdom, food politics, climate change, among others. “We bring inspiring stories that offer unique insight into people and places around the world. We are creating space for interactions about climate change and the many facets of the environmental emergency we face,” says Kunal, whose top picks include The roar of the Marañon, Planktoniumamong others.

This year, he adds, the virtual edition of the festival is free for all with a “pay-as-you-feel” model. “The climate emergency affects us all, regardless of our socio-economic background, and it compels us all to act as a collective species. For this reason, we have removed the financial barrier, and if you can afford it, you can choose to pay an appropriate amount to support the festival.

Ghost towns and bees

Based in her father’s village in the foothills of the Himalayas, director Srishti Lakhera Ek Tha Gaon tells the story of an abandoned ‘ghost’ village and the two women Srishti befriends – Leela Devi and 19-year-old Golu. “Leela Devi, 80, was a farmer and with people leaving, farming stopped and left her with a fading identity. Even with her pain of loss and longing, she kept her spirit alive and in the film you can see her fiery spirit and sense of humour,” says Srishti who learned from her a “new perspective of self-image “. Leela, she says, doesn’t own a mirror, nor did she care how she looked on camera. “When she says someone is Sun (beautiful), it always refers to the behavior of this person. Living in a world highly driven by technology, I am often detached from my surroundings. But Leela and Golu, the two women who grew up with silences between the sounds of deer barking, crickets and birds chirping, pay close attention to their world and live in the moment,” says Srishti who works currently on a documentary film set. in the Himalayan grasslands.

As for Rajani Mani Colonies in conflict – which delves into the state of wild bees in India’s rapidly developing landscape – she says the intention behind the film was to understand what was happening to the creatures, and also to share the world of wild pollinators who live in urban spaces. “I found giant Asian bees, or rockbees, to be fascinating creatures. As a storyteller, I want the viewer to understand how human interference plays out in the world of insects, starting with my own neighborhood, and the impact it would have on the local ecosystem and the world at large,” she says of the film shot mostly in Bengaluru and Coorg.

A poster of 'The Spirit of the Forest'

A poster of ‘The Spirit of the Forest’ | Photo credit: special arrangement

The Animated Sacred Grove

From bees to plants, The spirit of the forest by Kolkata-based Ghost Animation is a fascinating entry into ALT EFF’s animated shorts segment. Directed by Nandini Rao, Nirupa Rao and Kalp Sanghvi, the film follows the story of a little girl who stumbles across a sacred grove. Coming from a family of botanists, the Nandini and Nirupa sisters grew up around the Western Ghats, and they say the main goal of this project was to make an educational film rooted in science. In a previous interview, the duo pointed out how “the flora and fauna featured in the film are all true to habitat, and the themes of this ecological fairy tale are drawn from contemporary scientific research.”

Nandini explains how the team visited the marshes with locals, conservationists and sound artists, and Nirupa (a botanical illustrator) drew species with the help of botanist Navendu Page. “It was fascinating to note that these patches of forest have been preserved by centuries-old indigenous practices and have remained untouched by human hands since the formation of the Indian subcontinent during the breakup of the Gondwanaland Our vision was to capture the fragile essence of this interconnected web of nature and culture through a tale of magic, fantasy and human imagination,” says Nandini, adding that making it accessible to children was a challenge. “They can often be the harshest critics – if a story is boring or vague, or doesn’t resonate with them emotionally, they’ll tell you. The goal when writing the script was to create distinct and relatable characters and to weave scientific facts into a journey that audiences young and old could emotionally relate to.

BOX: After two years of being a purely virtual film festival, the 2022 edition of the All Living Things Environmental Film Festival (ALT EFF) will be a hybrid event. The virtual festival and in-person screenings will take place at venues in Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Bengaluru, Delhi, Ooty and Panchgani.

The 2022 All Living Things Environmental Film Festival will be held from November 17 to 27. Sign up at alteff.in/

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