I was very privileged to be invited to be the Chairman of the Jury at the 1st Images of Nature International Film Festival, held in São Paulo, Brazil, from 7 - 11 December.
Film festivals that highlight issues of nature and the environment are becoming increasingly important as vehicles for focusing public attention on some of the most critical problems we face in the world today. Many scientists and conservationists believe that environment could well be the most important issue of the 21st century and unless we give proper attention to protecting it, and to solving some of the problems we have already created, the prognosis for the long-term future of our quality of life on earth is not good.
The 1st Images of Nature International Film Festival was therefore both timely and important.
Entries to the Film Festival were competing for awards in two broad categories - national (i.e. Brazilian), and international. Of the 19 finalists, 8 entries were from Brazil. International films came from Canada, UK, India, USA, Chile, Germany, Italy and South Africa. The standard of production was high and covered a wide range of topics - from sociology to the African bush; from the Indian jungle to insects and parrots; from the undersea world to vampires.
The jury was composed by Clayton Ferreira Lino, architect and representative of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserves Council in Brazil, Jose Augusto Abdalla, film maker and director of Flagra Video, Sérgio Tulio Caldas, journalist,from Terra Magazine, Oscar Motta Mello, film maker and organiser of the Images of Nature, and myself , Neil Curry, film maker and organiser of International Environmental Film Festival (IEFF) of Pretoria, South Africa.
After much deliberation, the jury chose as the national winner:
Planeta Oceano - Moluscos
This film by Brazilian film maker Lawrence Wahba was judged to be:
A celebration of the creatures of the sea which through stunning and unusual photography - and a flowing kaleidoscope of colours - is a presentation of Images of Nature in its purest and most direct form.
The top international entry was:
Vampires, Devilbirds And Spirits
British film maker Nick Upton received the award for A delightfully original approach to wildlife information and education using local myths and legends to highlight the value and importance of a countrys wildlife and its close relationship to the lives of the people.
A Certificate of Merit was awarded to another international entry:
Falkland/Malvinas - En La Ruta Del Atlantico Sur
This film by Juan Carlos Gedda of Chile is:
A film about the Malvinas/Falkland Islands which, in an unpretentious way and with gentle humour, looks at the relationship between the people and wildlife of the islands.
The Future of Images of Nature Festival
In the years to come the Images of Nature International Film Festival will surely play a vital role not only in alerting the people of Brazil to the rich natural heritage of their own country (and of the crucial need to protect it), but also in raising public awareness of environmental issues in other parts of the world.
Three other aspects of the 1st Images of Nature International Film Festival are important:
1. festival films will be screened all over Brazil, especially to young people and students,
2. a documentation centre consisting of festival films is being created which can be used in future for educational purposes, and
3. a seminar was held where local and international environmental film makers were able to meet and exchange views on how they might collaborate to promote their message, particularly to developing countries.
The seminar saw the launch of two important initiatives - the result of a collaboration between the organisers of the 1st Images of Nature International Film Festival and the International Environmental Film Festival (IEFF) of Pretoria, South Africa.
The first - the POINTS SOUTH INITIATIVE - proposed a loose association of southern hemisphere film makers and broadcasters (South America, Southern Africa, India and Australia), to explore and develop the idea of producing environmental programmes that reflect specifically southern viewpoints and perspectives.
The influence and attitudes of the old world have spread everywhere into the new.Theyre often inappropriate and alien to the needs and desires of what is known as the developing world - and this has led to a growing awareness among people of the south of the need to develop standards and technologies that are more appropriate to their own cultures and levels of development.
The initiative proposed that the countries of the southern hemisphere should look at ways of strengthening the common bonds between us in order to promote this objective- leading perhaps to the production of programmes which could be exchanged between the television stations in the participating countries. Input was invited from the film makers and television representatives present at the meeting on how we might move the idea forward. Over the coming months we will maintain contact via the Internet with a view to taking the idea further. The second proposal - in some way closely tied to the first - was for the formation of a loose Association of Southern Hemisphere Environmental Film Festivals.
In developing countries there is a great need for practical information that people can use to improve their own standard of living and quality of life. Programmes about people in other parts of the world living in harmony with nature, working with eco-friendly technologies - farming, energy, ecological design, (real) sustainable development - doing positive things to maintain their own environments with waste-collection, recycling, saving water or energy, planting gardens, greening their areas etc., are all important.
Worldwide, there is a growing realisation that we all need to move towards more eco-friendly technologies but the fact of the matter is, it is in the developing countries - which are mainly situated in the southern hemisphere - that the need is greatest. It is also in these countries that appropriate technology (which can be easily understood and applied by people in similar situations), is often still being used on a daily basis.
Without being in any way political, the idea is to create a forum to enable environmental film festivals in the southern hemisphere to exchange information and programmes of the kind outlined above, with their counterparts in other southern hemisphere countries.The hope is that this will help to promote awareness of what environmental films and videos are available, and will encourage the wider distribution of programmes that can be useful in environmental education.
A further benefit is that people throughout the southern hemisphere would become aware that they are not alone in facing environmental problems. There are appropriate skills and techniques which people in similar situations in other countries are applying to improve the quality of their own lives.
The organisers of the 1st Images of Nature International Film Festival are to be complimented for their initiative in creating this event in Brazil at a time when raising awareness of environmental issues is becoming critically important all over the world. Organising and running an international film festival requires a huge commitment and a great deal of work. I would like to congratulate the organisers for the efficient way in which they ran this event, and for their foresight in providing an opportunity for the debate to be broadened far beyond the context of what one would expect had it been a festival only.
Finally, the sponsors deserve serious recognition for their far-sighted vision in supporting the Festival. As environmental issues become increasingly important, those of us who are concerned about the future of life on earth must work together to ensure that environmental information that is of value is distributed as widely as possible to the people who can make use of it. A film festival is an important and high profile way of achieving this.
The sponsors who have supported this first Festival therefore have every right to feel proud of the part of they have played in creating this new event. I hope that in the years to come they will continue to demonstrate their commitment and that the Images of Nature International Film Festival will come to play an increasingly important role in raising environmental awareness at every level of society throughout Brazil.
On a personal note, I would like to thank the sponsors for making it possible for me to visit Brazil. I sincerely hope that the links we have been able to create between the Images of Nature International Film Festival and our own International Environmental Film Festival in South Africa will lead to closer contacts between our two countries and a better understanding of our (common) environmental problems. And, as the two initiatives launched in São Paulo bear fruit, I hope this understanding will widen to all the developing countries of the southern hemisphere.