The SF International's GreenWorld contest turns a big issue over to the makers of shorts

Miljenko Skoknic March 21, 2007

Given two minutes to communicate visually the most compelling ideas you have about the future of our world’s ecology, what would you say? It’s more time than Al Gore had on Oscar night, and he got the message across, or at least we hope so…. The driving idea behind the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival GreenWorld Contest, presented by the SFIFF and Yahoo! Video, is to bring the vision of filmmakers to the forefront of environmental discourse.

The videos being solicited can take the most varied forms, according to Sean Uyehara, the programmer for the SF International Film Festival who’s spearheaded the contest: fiction, documentary, experimental, essayistic. And the content is, of course, up to the discretion of the filmmaker — from global warming to forest and wildlife preservation, land use, sustainable development, innovative uses of renewable forms of energy, and beyond. A TBD panel of judges will award the Grand Prize, consisting of $1,000, a Delta Airlines ticket to attend the event, and a screening of the winning entry at the SFIFF50‘s “Halou, Tarentel, and the GreenWorld” performance and event following the annual Golden Gate Awards ceremony, May 9th, 2007.

This contest is part of the SFIFF/Green initiative at the Festival this year, which also features two environmentally focused films under its umbrella, as well as a green-themed panel discussion “It’s a (New) Green World,” Sun/6 at the Sundance Kabuki with filmmakers, technologists and activists. The two documentaries the Festival is showing are Laura Dunn’s “The Unforseen”, a poetic take on the development near Barton Springs in Austin, Texas, and nature’s unforeseeable response to its human intervention; Dunn’s second doc is executive produced by Terrence Malick and Robert Redford. The second film in its SFIFF/Green eco-friendly programs and events initiative, “Everything’s Cool,” follows in wake of documentaries that have emphasized the dangers of the increasing greenhouse situation. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, “Everything’s Cool” is directed by Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand, and follows, in Helfand’s words, “a cadre of messengers who are passionate, exasperated, driven by fear, hope and a deep appreciation for the ever shrinking window of time we have to stop global warming.”

Some GreenWorld shorts have already made it online at Jumpcut, where viewers can vote in their favorites (a special Audience Award will be given, in addition to the Grand Prize); the most popular at this moment is “The Dawn of Man”, a short comedy about rediscovering technology — in this case, a household meat-slicer. A more political vision comes from “120 Seconds to Get Elected:” a summing up of all the demagoguery of campaign rhetoric. Through two-second cues and political sing-song, a presidential hopeful manages to say absolutely nothing. The last video I saw was a PSA in the form of a music video, “Keep the Coast LNG Free,” where a child pleads for clean beaches and sea. As the videos keep rolling in, it will be interesting to see all the possible variations the “What does green mean to you?” theme can attract. Expect to hear more from community partners Amazon Watch, Environmental Media Association, and Forest Ethics, and with associated endorsers in actress Q’Oriana Kilcher (“New World”), actress Frances Fisher, and supermodel Shalom Harlow.

The contest comes about from a new Yahoo! collaboration with the SF Film Society. “Yahoo! Video is one of the most creative groups the San Francisco Film Society has had the opportunity to work with,” said Graham Leggat, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, in the SFFS press release. “We are very excited by their new ideas for filmmakers and film audiences and are looking forward to exploring with them the converging frontiers of film and digital technology.”

And Yahoo! Video is equally pleased with its new arts partnership, according to the release. “As a leading online video destination, Yahoo! Video is constantly looking for opportunities to enhance the online video experience for our users.” said Vince Broady, Head of Yahoo! Entertainment. “By partnering with the San Francisco Film Society, we are offering exciting, high-quality independent film content to our users within a branded experience. And by providing an online video editing platform through Jumpcut, we’ll empower our users to express “What it means to be green” through the power of video.”

Also in the works: The Festival is partnering with NativeEnergy to reduce its own environmental impact. The SFFS channel on Yahoo! Video is already available. SFFS announced the channel will feature content and creative programming from the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 26