4 Inspiring Eco-Films Featured at One of the World's Best Film Festivals
One of my favorite events of the year is here again—the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now in its 39th year. The festival will showcase more than 193 feature films and 234 short films representing 60 countries from March 18 - 29.
Being a proud born-and-raised Clevelander, I love sharing my excitement for my hometown having one of the best film festivals in the world. Even USA Today agrees, as CIFF made the list, complied by film excerpts, of the top 20 U.S. Film Festivals, and right now it's listed as the number one best film festival on the readers' choice standings.
Each year EcoWatch sponsors one of the eco-films, and this year it's Racing to Zero, a quick-moving, upbeat documentary that provides new solutions to the global problem of waste. The film creators believe that by "simply substituting the word resource for the word garbage, a culture can be transformed, and a new wealth of industries can emerge."
The film tracks San Francisco's waste stream diversion tactics and presents innovative new solutions to waste, documenting a surprising, engaging and inspiring race to zero, as the city aims to be 100 percent waste free by 2020. For screening times at CIFF, click here.
There are many other eco-films at this year's film fest including, Anthony Baxter’s A Dangerous Game, which tracks billionaire Donald Trump's plans to build golf courses—where they typically wouldn't exist and are environmental calamities—for the super rich in Scotland and America.
Residents of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, have been fighting Trumps plans to build a luxury golf resort on rare sand dunes for years. Now, another Trump-style build is planned in the area on an arid hillside overlooking the stunning city of Dubrovnik.
Actor and activist Alec Baldwin and leading American environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are interviewed in the film. “There are lots of Donald Trumps out there, there are people like him in every country and every community," says Kennedy.
The film takes you to Scotland, Croatia, Long Island and Las Vegas, where communities are fighting developers who are willing to risk our fragile natural world for a game of golf. For screening times at CIFF, click here.
"We all love food. As a society, we devour countless cooking shows, culinary magazines and foodie blogs. So how could we possibly be throwing nearly 50% of it in the trash?," the film Just Eat It asks.
Just Eat It dives into the issue of food waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of the fridge of filmmakers and foodies Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin. The film provides a glimpse of the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed each year in North America, which drives the filmmakers to take a pledge to quit grocery shopping cold turkey and survive only on foods that would otherwise be thrown away.
The 74-minute documentary includes interviews with author and activist Tristram Stuart, journalist and author Jonathan Bloom, and Natural Resources Defense Council food scientist Dana Gunders. For screening times at CIFF, click here.
And, if you're in mood to watch a heartfelt film, Above All Else is what you should see.
CIFF's Eddie Fleisher provides this synopsis of the film:
Former high-wire artist David Daniel never expected to be at the forefront of the Keystone XL pipeline debate. But when he discovered TransCanada planned to route it through his land, he became incredibly concerned. He had moved to rural East Texas with his wife and young daughter for peace, a wish that appeared to now be in jeopardy. Instead, Daniel became somewhat of an expert on the dangers of the pipeline, spreading the word to his neighbors. They were convinced by his knowledge and passion, so they didn’t need to be won over. David found himself in a battle with a corporate Goliath, who wasn't going to let anyone interfere with its bottom line. Above All Else documents his tumultuous experience from its infancy to his desperate but bold final act, putting his expertise to use by building an intricate tree-top blockade. Despite whether or not it stopped TransCanada, Daniel's bravery ignited a fire under grassroots climate change activists, who have continued the work he started. You've heard the heated arguments on the subject, but Above All Else gives it a human face.
For screening times at CIFF, click here.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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