Since 1993, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital (DCEFF) has been enthralling and educating people in the D.C. area with hundreds of movies. Held annually in the spring, the 2017 festival featured more than 180 movies and tens of thousands of people came to see films on topics varying from the Flint, Michigan water crisis to a charming story about cats in Istanbul.
Beginning this year, and coinciding with their 25th anniversary, the DCEFF has launched a year-round schedule of events. Called DCEFF 365, the program is dedicated to becoming an educational resource for local schools, libraries and other locales that can enable young people to connect to the Festival after spring has ended and all year long.
"We've had a lot of youth programming throughout our festivals and it's important to expand on that idea because there is a lot of interest out there," says Arjumand Hamid, Director of Educational Outreach at DCEFF. "We are using films to excite and educate young people about our amazing planet and inspire them to protect it and take care of it."
Executive Director Maryanne Culpepper, who joined DCEFF in the summer of 2016, is also excited about what the new programming can mean for the area's children. "Kids are so tuned in to their environment," Culpepper says. "They love frogs and creeks, rocks and clouds. We want to tap into that natural excitement with films and stories about our amazing planet because if they love it, they'll want to protect it."
In early March, for an event at the historic Lincoln Theatre, DCEFF 365 showed the film, "Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale" to more than 1,300 students at two back-to-back showings.
"Thanks to support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities we were able to have this program," Hamid says. "We had the filmmakers come to the event. The vibe was just fantastic. The students' reactions were great and it really just showed what D.C. culture is all about. We showed the film and then right afterward we had a Q&A with the filmmakers. We had students of all ages join in and their questions were so incredible. It was really exciting for everyone involved."
While the educational outreach department is new this year, the DCEFF has been working with schools, libraries and children for some time.
Hamid is excited about the possibilities of expanding the relationships the festival has in place. "Ever since we started expanding our educational programming, we've had so much interest from our existing partners," she says. "The film festival partners with embassies, museums, theaters, research foundations and other non-profit groups. To us, and to our partners, it's just been great to keep those relationships going. It makes complete sense to continue working together."
One relationship that continues to go strong is the one between DCEFF and the D.C. Public Library system. "DCPL has been a partner with us since the beginning and that is just incredible," Hamid says. "There are more than 25 separate D.C. libraries and we hope to be showing different programs there. You cannot underestimate how excited the librarians are and how much they want to get involved. From putting together packets to laying out books related to the films being shown, DCPL has been a great partner."
"We are also excited to bring in authors whose books have been made into films and have even more workshops," Hamid says. "These librarians are just so great and so excited to host our ideas."
The programs and events range in size. "Last year we had one at DAR Constitution Hall and we were able to have 2,400 people attend," Hamid says. Other programs, such as those held at libraries, allow for a more intimate setting, with as few as 15 to 30 attendees. "It depends upon how we present the film; whether it is in a classroom, an assembly or a theater, but our reach is really growing."
Hamid is excited for what the future of the year-round programming can bring. "We hope to not only spark interest and spread awareness about environmental topics, but also provide guidance and ideas about how participants can help in bringing on change for the better," she says.
For more information about the DCEFF and the programming they provide year-round, check out their website at dceff.org, their twitter at @dcenvirofilm or their Facebook under Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital.
D.C. Environmental Film Fest: Walking the Green Carpet
Katie Schubert is a freelance writer who grew up in the D.C. area and enjoys reporting on all that the DMV has to offer.