Launched nearly a decade ago, the GreenMe Film Festival is aiming to make a real change in the world. You guessed it – it’s ecological issues that these guys are interested in.
And it’s based in our home city of Berlin. So, we felt it was high-time for us to go and chat with the Festival Director Nic Niemann and Program Director Delphi Breger at their headquarters in the middle of stylish Berlin Mitte. What did we find out? Lots! We discussed topics as myriad as Chernobyl, modern connectivity through smartphones and social media and Coca-Cola. For all those who expect an ecological festival to be inherently pessimistic, a very optimistic outlook emerged indeed…
Andrew Wilkin, FilmFestivalLife: So, for filmmakers that don’t know about the festival, can you tell me how Green Me began?
Nic Niemann: I set up the festival with my founding partner Donald Houwer eight and a half years ago. Broadly, the aim was to start up an open platform where we present structures that help people to change ideas related to ecology.
We are after green or ecology topics that are connected with sociology – espousing how people behave and interact. Nature really can be a resource for people to balance themselves in their lives. We want to present guidelines, so that people use a smaller carbon footprint or live their lives in general with less impact on the environment.
This year is your 9th edition. What should filmmakers know?
Nic: First of all, we have published our first book! It’s called the GreenMe report. We’ve collected political and content statements from our partners and panels for this book.
Furthermore, we screen 37 films with 90 screening slots – all waiting to be filled. As always, we want a diverse program so people of all different fields can come along – so that there is no barrier for people who, for example, say ‘I’m not so interested in nature by itself, I want a more technological approach’.
We have a feature film, a documentary film and a kids section. Our 4th section is always our special topic – this year the Water and Oceans. These 4 sections coexist. Shorts films get attached to feature films for pre-screening and we always show two: LET’S TALK ABOUT SOIL and STOPPT DIE ÜBERFISCHUNG (Stop the Overfishing). These films really explain everything – they’re fantastic.
Delphi Breger: Yes, this year’s topic is Water and Oceans. It’s a wide-ranging topic – from what you drink, to the ocean you swim in, to the trash in the ocean, to the animals that encounter it. It encompasses how Nestle sells their water from wells underneath the ground in Africa, when the people there don’t have anything to drink – even though it’s technically their water. We want to talk about refugees who travel on boats, and sometimes die in the ocean on their journey. It really can go in many directions – there’s a wide range of stories to tell.
You mentioned your children’s section. What would you say makes an ecological film interesting for children?
Delphi: It’s easy – these issues are really in their minds!
Nic: I’ve even heard children be interviewed and quoted after watching one of our films, saying they don’t understand why there would be any other types of films! In a literal sense, kids are shorter, closer to the ground we live on and they can even see more animals!
And when I talk to my own son, I also realize it’s to do with the way they perceive media. They see the icebergs as a threat to something they love – the earth. It’s very easy. For children, looking after our planet is something that’s self-explanatory.
The next step is that we are changing the children’s section. Up to now we’ve always screened movies for children produced by adults, but we plan to move in a direction of creating a more active role for the children themselves – where they can get awarded. We’ve also got our Nature film foundation and we’re teaming up with them to get up to the next level of interconnectivity for kids. After all, kids don’t have the same cynicism that adults have!
What qualities are you looking for in films submitted to Green Me?
Delphi: We’re looking for an optimistic touch in them. We don’t just want to just see burning oil fields and dying people and animals. We really want to find an optimistic view on something, so our audience is not sitting in the cinema and thinking ‘OMG we’re going to die’. The aim is to make them feel like they can do something and then they tell their friends, spreading the word. Despite all the negative things, there are a lot of positive things that happen too.
Nic: It’s difficult to pin it down to plus and minuses, positives and negatives. When you see the glaciers melting at the North Pole, the immense power and beauty of nature is depicted at the same time. It’s so amazing to see – it also makes you understand both the impact of us as a human race and the power of nature. So, here’s what we learn – if we all get together, we can successfully destroy the earth. But when we all get together for the good cause and are sensitive to ecology, we can turn it around. It’s a question of our decision.
Nature can really heal itself really beautiful. We had a film titled RADIOACTIVE WOLVES which depicted how animals could live in the radioactive area of Chernobyl after the catastrophe very well – even if the adults couldn’t. The animals returned into a zone where humans were extinct, marking an absurd situation for some wildlife in the Ukraine – it it was good for them the nuclear accident happened, so the environment could regenerate itself.
What tips do you have for submitters?
Nic: DO IT! People are hesitant, often wondering – ‘Does this fit or not?’. We really are looking forward to receiving many different views and angles on the same subject matter, so don’t worry about it.
Delphi: And don’t forget – English subtitles.
Are there any trends you have noted in the genre of ecological films?
Nic: The biggest trend we are experiencing is that the simple investigative journalism – where filmmakers find a secret hidden truth about a company – is not enough anymore. Filmmakers need to reflect on it, as the audience wants to be shown a way to deal with the issues. People want to know what big companies are doing – nowadays they doing ethical checkups before using their products. That’s interesting.
In recent years, Coca-Cola have tried to green label its product as ‘Coca Coca Life’. But people want to know what’s different and if there’s no difference, they’ll drop the product. It’s that simple. This is so different from 20 years ago.
Another thing to point out is the recent events in the US – where black citizens have been threatened by policemen. In the dissemination of this information, the citizens have been a broadcast station – by using their phones, filming it and sharing. This is a very powerful tool. Whilst the NSA might be screening and filtering Facebook, at the same time by posting things on the website you can raise awareness for different issues yourself. This technology changes are changing the entire way people are becoming aware of eco issues.
How is your experience with FFL?
Delphi: I really like the website. Everyone who works there is very helpful and it’s efficient and easy to use.
Nic Niemann, Festival Director
Delphi Breger, Program Director
Green Me Film Festival
05 Feb – 07 Feb, 2016
Submit to Green Me on FilmFestivalLife:
Early Bird Deadline: Sep 30, 2015
Regular Deadline: Oct 31, 2015
Late Deadline: Nov 06, 2015
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