30 ways Oak Park and River Forest residents can save the planet

One Earth Film Fest returns this weekend for its third go-round

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

In a world trying to understand the issues surrounding polar vortexes and ice cap melts; super-storms, raging forest fires and severe droughts; bee colony collapse disorder; and GMOs, setting aside an hour or two to "educate" one's self by viewing a few flicks during Green Community Connection's 3rd Annual One Earth Film Festival, March 7-9, offers an entertaining way to gain a leg up on what to do next for the planet.

At any rate that's the aim of the "Midwest's premier environmental film fest," featuring 30 films, ranging from food, water, waste and energy conservation to eco-activism, shown on the big screens of two dozen private-, public- and nonprofit-sector community partners in Oak Park, River Forest, Berwyn, River Grove and Chicago. Activities and post-film discussions with experts are on tap, too, and nearly all of the screenings are free (although a $5 donation is suggested).

Last year's festival, says Sally Stovall, a co-founder of GCC, drew over 2,000 movie-goers from the Chicago Metro area. This year, she hopes to exceed that box office record. Seating is limited, so tickets can be reserved in advance by linking to www.greencommunityconnections.org.

The official fest opener, Stovall says, is this Friday, March 7: a Green Carpet Gala, which will include the screening of two short films, "Sacred Economics" and "Story of Solutions," as well as food, drink and networking, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the 19th Century Charitable Association, 178 Forest Ave. in Oak Park — all for $30.

"We came upon the idea that film is a compact way to make an impact in lots of topic areas, including the environment," says GCC volunteer and local green advocate Ana Garcia Doyle. "A film festival is a great way to get people aware, hopefully moving them to action when a good filmmaker tells their story in a way that audience members can connect with the issue."

Flicks to pick

On Thursday, March 6, from 7 to 9:15 p.m., a "view and brew" will be held at Wire in Berwyn featuring Revolution — a movie about saving the planet's aquatic ecosystems held at a popular watering hole (cash bar).

This is filmmaker Rob Stewart's follow-up to his acclaimed film, Sharkwater, and a continuation of what Garcia Doyle calls a remarkable journey through 15 countries to uncover the secret to saving a range of ecosystems, from coral reefs in Papua, New Guinea, to the deforestation of Madagascar, and the largest and most environmentally destructive project in history in Alberta, Canada. 

What struck Garcia Doyle about the film was its focus on the power of youth environmentalism. The filmmaker goes to middle schools to talk to students and captures their reactions on film.

"We are not trying to hit people over the head or overwhelm them," Garcia Doyle says. "We are trying to show the possibilities around shifting habits to new ways of living by showing a film with a great speaker — or with Revolution, screen a film about youth action."

 Stovall gives two thumbs way up for Comfort Zone, by filmmakers Dave Danesh, Sean P. Donnelly and Kate Kressmann-Kehoe, on Saturday, March 8, from12:30 to 2:15, at the Oak Park Public Library. Afterward, there will be a post-film Q&A with a few of the filmmakers. 

 The film takes place in Rochester, NY. It is about climate change, and for Stovall it hit home.

"It is the story of these filmmakers, and how they set out to understand what is happening with climate change, and how it might impact their particular area, and what they can do," says Stovall. "It is not all heavy duty. It goes through what they can do in their own lives and at the advocacy level."

Local healthy food advocate and GCC volunteer Cheryl Munoz, a co-founder of Sugar Beet Cooperative, is giving the Jeremy Seifert film, GMO OMG, her nod. 

It will be shown twice, from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at two locations — the Lake Theatre, 1022 Lake St. in Oak Park (tickets $6) and the Chicago Park District's Humboldt Park field house, 1440 Humboldt Drive in Chicago (admission free). Post-film, there will be a facilitated discussion by Jim Slama, founder of Family Farmed and Good Food festivals at The Lake. The Humboldt Park event includes a sustainable food resource fair.

 "Jeremy Seifert takes this little road trip with his family, and it is really sweet," Munoz says, describing the film. "GMOs are scary to me, and I don't really like to talk about them or read about them because it is such a hard thing to understand, and I don't know what to do about it. But when I watched GMO OMG, I felt like I actually had some peer direction, and there is a very positive outlook to the film."

On Sunday, March 9, Urban Roots, by filmmakers Leila Conners (The 11th Hour) Mark MacInnis and Mathew Schmid will be screened from 3 to 5:15 p.m. at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 5700 Midway Park, in Austin. 

 GCC volunteer Dick Alton says this film about the power of community gardening is a must-see for all — a timely, moving and inspiring film that chronicles the hopes and dreams of Detroit's "next big idea," a.k.a. the urban-farming phenomenon. Seamus Ford, a co-founder of Root Riot Urban Garden Network, will lead a post-film discussion.

"We are hoping to have other people talk about opportunities to garden on the West Side of Chicago," says Alton, a core member of GCC. 

Who sees what when, Stovall adds, will probably boil down to location, location, location.

"All day Saturday at Oak Park Public Library, we will be showing three different films, and they are all really great," Stovall says. "So we're hoping some people may choose to do that."

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