A whirlwind first six days of the 6th One Earth Film Festival

An "Under the Canopy" virtual reality experience was part of the Young Filmmakers Contest Awards program at Columbia College. (Photo by Gloria Araya)

An "Under the Canopy" virtual reality experience was part of the Young Filmmakers Contest Awards program at Columbia College. (Photo by Gloria Araya)

We are six days into the 6th Annual One Earth Film Festival and have had 30 screenings through Wednesday night.

Audiences are filling venues and leaving with empowering and instructive information about local, national and global environmental issues. Festival site coordinators and volunteers are reporting on strong attendance this year as they see audiences leaving with an increased sense of urgency to address issued raised in the films.

“We had overflowing crowds at Oak Park Public Library for “At the Fork” and Good Earth Greenhouse (in River Forest) Saturday night had to add more chairs,” said Tari Delisi, Near-West Suburbs Cluster Lead/Site Coordinator. “Two both sold out events.”

“We started off the week with 27 people for “Sustainable” at Lake Theater [in Oak Park] to seeing the actual attendance reach 240,” Delisi said. “[It was an] amazing film, discussion with the filmmaker, the farmer from the film, Marty [Travis] and a full crowd lingering at the action tables.”

The festival officially started Friday with the Green Carpet Gala at Fourth Presbyterian Church. A capacity crowd of 300 came out for the signature kick-off event, and for almost two hours, people lined for the Amazon rainforest virtual experience “Under the Canopy” from Conservation International and Jaunt VR. Guests who were interested also took turns test driving the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle.

On the entertainment side, Zach Balousek, a Chicago ceramic sculptor and musician, who performed original music on his banjutar, and an After School Matters Dance Ensemble, made up of students from Farragut Academy in Chicago, performed three Bolivian dances.

During a short program in the second-floor Buchanan Chapel, festival director Ana Garcia Doyle shared hopes and outcomes for the festival. Chris Wheat, chief sustainability officer for the City of Chicago, said he wanted to see the festival touch a diversity of communities. Wendy Walker Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, was the evening’s emcee.  

A panel of filmmakers—Patrick Meeghan (“Under the Canopy”), Cidney Hue (“Shark Loves the Amazon”), Tom Desch (“Shifting Sands) and Matt Weschler (“Sustainable”)—took the stage and talked about the challenges and rewards of making films that address some of the biggest environmental issues of the day. Following that was a short Q&A with the audience. Then it was back downstairs for more food, drinks and mingling until the evening concluded.