There’s an odd kind of hush all over the city about the inaugural Miami and the Beaches Environmental Film Festival (MBEFF), which kicks off tonight at the Colony Theatre, on Lincoln Road, with a program of student-produced shorts and its first feature film, Revenge of the Electric Car. The documentary features a slew of bold-face names, including Anthony Kiedis and Stephen Colbert, as well as various important figures in the electric car industry.
“I don’t think anyone knows about us,” says festival director Michael Laas. “We don’t have a history yet, and people are wondering, ‘Is this real or not?'”
Fair enough. Sometimes it seems as if Miami hosts a film festival every g’damn week. But a perusal of the MBEFF web site suggests that it is very much for real. The program comprises nine feature-length documentaries, a Wallcast at the New World Symphony, a student film competition (the aforementioned shorts series), and several parties.
An evolution of ECOMB’s Cinema Green series, the first Environmental Film Festival is an effort to awaken local people to environmental issues with local resonance. Toward that end, MBEFF has “teamed up” Miami-based non-profits with every film. Three examples:
— The Tropical Audubon Society, which is currently battling FPL’s plans to string power lines through the Everglades, is sponsoring The Pipe, a film about a remote Irish community’s fight to stop an oil company from laying down a pipe in their village
— Slow Food Miami is teamed up with Queen of the Sun, a documentary about the global collapse of bee colonies (whose director and producer we interviewed back in May)
— The Surfrider Foundation is sponsoring The Light Bulb Conspiracy, a film about “planned obsolescence” — the business strategy of deliberately designing products to self-destruct so we shmucky consumers have to keep buying new stuff
MBEFF also partnered with the City of Miami Beach to host a free public screening of Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out Of Balance in SoundScape, the New World Symphony’s outdoor theater complete with 7,000-square-foot projection wall. The uber-high-tech set-up is a bit ironic considering Koyaanisqatsi, a 1982 film by directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass, is about the collision of technology and the environment.
On the eve of the MBEFF’s first screening, Laas says he will measure the success of the festival by the number of “butts in the seats.”
“It’s not about raising a certain a certain amount of money, or getting a certain amount of films under our belts, or hitting a certain number of venues,” says Laas. “It really is about engaging the community.”
A seasoned environmental activist who has been in Miami for ten years, Laas says the city’s green movement is “pretty disorganized.” He sees the MBEFF as a platform for different environmental organizations to come together and for locals to “enlighten themselves” on important issues of land and sea.
“We’re definitely not as educated as we could be,” says Laas. “We have the Atlantic Ocean, we have the Everglades, we have so much around us. Yet some communities are so insular.”
At the same time, Laas says the films in the MBEFF program are “more inspirational than they are educational.”
“They show what is happening but also the people who are making a difference,” says Laas. “This is what they’re doing, and this is how you can do the same thing.”
The MBEFF runs from Thursday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 23. You can view the full program and schedule on mbenvironmentalfilmfestival.org.