The Fast Forward Film Festival is back for a second year of locally made, five-minutes-or-less films about the environment. And like its inaugural season, the festival is a juried competition with films chosen from open submissions, rather than a traditional curated festival selected without community input. But according to Festival Director Becca Delaney, its sophomore iteration features some important changes.
"This is bigger and better because I think we listen to our community and we try to drive the event to be more than just an event," Delaney explains. "We really want our festival to represent what Rochester wants it to be, what it can be, and really leverage the feedback."
This year's festival called upon the expertise of an advisory council of prominent film and environment specialists. In response to feedback from the community, the council recommended cutting the number of award categories to just two: an adult category and a new youth category for filmmakers 17 years old and under. And there will still be the Audience Choice Award.
Initiated by Executive Director Andrew Stern, the Fast Forward Film Festival will be "showcasing new environmental perspectives" as part of Earth Week 2016, with the complete film screenings at the Little Theatre on Thursday, April 21. A festival gala — including a reception, selected screenings, and awards ceremony — will be at the George Eastman Museum on Saturday, April 23.
The adult category program includes 10 films, and the youth category contains six. Below are six films that represent the breadth and depth of issues that are being covered at the 2016 Fast Forward Film Festival. For more information, including the full list of official film sections, go to fastforwardroc.org or call the festival office at 340-7456.
Youth Category (listed alphabetically)
With fun animation and a relatable narrative, "Apples: The Core Dilemma" thoughtful examines the complicated factors that must be weighed by consumers when deciding whether or not to buy organic produce. Filmmaker Asha Hotaling, a 7th grader at The Harley School, succinctly addresses the pitfalls of pesticides, carbon footprint concerns when purchasing out-of-state products, and why it is so cost-prohibitive for local farmers to grow organically. "Apples" doesn't simply present the problems. It also offers realistic solutions for conscientious consumers, pointing to specific organic apple orchards in New York State.
"Organically Fashioned" is an autobiographical documentary about 15-year old Brighton High School student Sofie Cerankosky. She also happens to be a prodigious fashion designer who has already done important work exploring fashion's ability to promote sustainability through the creative use of recyclable materials. A change of pace, the film demonstrates how one emergent local artist is promoting environmental consciousness through her work.
"The Paris Climate Change Agreement: An Education" tackles arguably the single most important security issue — let alone environmental issue — that we face. That the film deals with the topic of "global warming" with a clever combination of substance and humor is a credit to its creator, Jack Aman. In a detailed analysis of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, Aman uses a sense of urgency and a winning comedic delivery to explain whether or not the agreement made by participating countries will in fact help to alleviate the impact of an impending climate change epidemic.
Adult Category (listed alphabetically)
The claymation short "Bugged" is a delightful story about Raquel Vasquez, a child who loves bugs so much that she goes to great lengths in order to protect them from destruction. This whimsical, light-hearted fiction by Ben Doran and Miranda Sider doubles as an insightful reminder about the indispensable role insects play in humanity's well-being and the very real dangers that pesticides pose to people and bugs alike. This is Doran's second official selection for Fast Forward.
Jim and Diane Downer's "Compost" is a brilliant synthesis of sights and sounds. Rather than utilize a narrative form, this entirely wordless film is effectively a music video in which leaves, plants, fruit, flowers, and insects spin and dance across the screen to the sound of a playful, off-kilter take on "The Peanuts" theme song and snippets of a jazzy version of "Flight of the Bumblebee." With musical accompaniment by David Shaw and John Nyerges, "Compost" is an abundantly creative film that is sure to make you smile.
Filmmaker Alex Freeman's "Seedfolk City Farms" highlights the Seedfolk program's director, Lisa Barker, and her mission to combat the harmful consequences of food deserts in Rochester by teaching and empowering young people to grow and prepare food on urban farms. In the process, student leaders are "cultivated" and their connection to the community is fostered. The short is beautifully shot, expertly paced, and its theme of environment-as-education is as relevant as ever. Plus, Overhand Sam Snyder provides original music.
City Newspaper film critic Adam Lubitow was on the 2016 Fast Forward Film Festival jury. He did not participate in the initiation or execution of this article.