Ithaca Now spoke with Tom Shevory, politics professor at Ithaca College and co-director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. “There is a huge history of art practice in this area,” Shevory says. “Upstate New York is very rich in terms of all kinds of artistic practices.” Now celebrating its 16th anniversary, the festival features more than 100 films, lectures, music and art performances on the Ithaca College campus and at Cinemapolis from April 1-7.
Has the festival evolved since its inception 16 years ago?
Our position from the beginning has always been that a festival is a festival. Films are a broad category, and we wanted to include as many kinds of arts activities and events as possible. From the very beginning we’ve done silent film and music events, we’ve partnered with the Music School to do events over there, so we’ve always seen our mission to be a broad one — not just to be about screening films in a room on a wall.
Why is this region so well prepared to host an environmental film festival like this?
There is a huge history of art practice in this area. Upstate New York is very rich in terms of all kinds of artistic practices…. One of the things we’re trying to do now is to highlight some of the many talented filmmakers that are in this area at Ithaca College, BInghamton — we’ve moving to Rochester and some other campuses and cities in the region. The traditional of really excellent filmmaking continues in this area and we’re trying to incorporate that into the festival as we move forward.
In addition to filmmaking, there’s also a huge a tradition of respect of environment and a large reaction to environmental issues in general.
When the festival first came over to the Ithaca College campus, we had a provost at the time, Peter Bardaglio, who was very interested in raising the profile of the college in terms of sustainability issues. The festival was originally funded in some ways as part of that broader initiative. We see ourselves as fitting into both the artistic traditions of this area but also the incredible emphasis on sustainability. That’s also part of the traditions of upstate New York, so we try to draw on both of those aspects of the region.