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Film festival under way

By Staff | Nov 5, 2010

The 8th annual American Conservation Film Festival got under way last night as venues across Shepherdstown debuted the first few of the 50 films that will be screened this weekend.

The festival’s theme this year is Oil and Water, with “Saving Seas” and “Fuels for Thought” serving as the subthemes, according to Candi Byrne, ACFF director.

Byrne and ACFF President Chuck Dunkerly believe that this year’s festival has a lot to offer attendees.

One of tonight’s features, “Gasland,” explores the Haliburton-developed process of hydrofracturing, or “fracking,” as a form of natural gas drilling.

“This film has made a huge splash,” Byrne said.

She said after the film a panel, entitled “What the Frack?”, will explore the issues raised in Josh Fox’s documentary.

“We take people beyond just sitting there and watching the film,” Byrne said. “We bring it down to the level of discussion.”

Dunkerly hopes that the film festival can create and environment to promote conversation about the issues raised in the films.

“It’s okay to leave with more questions,” he said, “but I don’t want you to leave more frustrated (about the issue).”

The festival board often brings in the filmmakers themselves to talk with audience members.

“People that are deep into the issue, know nuances of the issue, can talk about the issue,” Dunkerly said.

Another program that both Dunkerly and Byrne hope festival-goers can attend is the free presentation filmmaker Chris Palmer, a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., will give Saturday about his new book, “Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom.”

Dunkerly said Palmer’s book raises questions about shooting techniques, ethics and other issues when shooting documentaries. Sometimes, according to Palmer’s book, things aren’t how they appear on screen.

“This is a great insight about how films are made,” Dunkerly said.

“Chris is an incredible presenter (and has) incredible energy,” Byrne said.

But Byrne said the term “conservation” goes beyond environmental issues. Cultural conservation is also a topic at the festival.

One film, “What’s on Your Plate?”, followed by the panel, “You Gonna Eat That?”, will address the national issue of school lunches. Byrne said they have brought in 14-year-old students to prepare and present this issue.

“We want them to give their perspective and to have a voice because they’re the end consumer,” Byrne said.

Both Byrne and Dunkerly believe that the weekend is full of films, presentations and panels that would pique the interest of many festival attendees.

“I think we are on people’s calendars the first weekend in November,” Dunkerly said. “It’s the palce people can see films they can’t see anywhere else.”

The selection committee chose to show 50 out of the 220 films that were submitted for this year’s festival.

“We’re a small but growing festival,” Byrne said. We set the bar very high early on. There’s no desire to lower the bar. It’s how can we raise the bar even higher?”