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ALT EFF: An environment film festival that’s an ode to all that breathes

ALT EFF, the 10-day international film festival dedicated to the environment is here

Poster for 'All that Breathes'
Poster for 'All that Breathes'

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As smog-hit Delhi fights to breathe, the story of two brothers setting out to save the city’s black kites will be soaring high on many screens this week. Shaunak Sen’s Cannes and Sundance award-winning documentary All that Breathes about these birds is one of the 55 films to be shown as part of the All Living Things Environment Film Festival (ALT EFF). The third edition of the festival aims to bring awareness and stir conversation about the environment with virtual and in-person screenings across eight cities, from November 17- 27, 2022.

“The environmental crisis is the most pressing issue of our times.There is no medium as powerful as film to reach and touch millions of people,” says Kunal Khanna, who started ALT EFF along with co-founders Neha Shrestha and Rudransh Mathur. 

ALT EFF was conceived in Panchgani in 2020 when three people happened to meet at a local festival. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in environmental studies from Melbourne, Kunal had come back to Panchgani and started the Odd Gum Nut, a permaculture farm that values frugal living, earth care and creative thinking. Shrestha and Mathur, both of whom studied film at Bengaluru’s Srishti School of Design and Technology were thinking of making a film. Rudransh had won an award at the Vatavaran Film Festival in the child category for his film Birds through my window

Also read: Nagaland’s first-ever birding event records 178 bird species

Since all three of them were living in Panchgani, a biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats, they started ALT EFF as a volunteer-driven, virtual festival of films that discussed critical environmental issues. In 2020, Shrestha and Mathur’s design firm Network Of Creative Thinkers won the India’s Best Design Award for the branding of ALT EFF, and has just won the 2022 award as a brand design studio. This mix of design, concern and economics has helped the three build a platform that aims to showcase films acrossdifferent budgets; some are grassroots and community driven, some are student-made independent projects and some are big budget films. “What they all have in common is that they will make you wonder, hit you with some hard, on-ground realities, inspire you with solutions, amaze you with creativity and leave you feeling hopeful and empowered to make change,” says Khanna. 

The 2022 edition includes a live selection in Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Goa, Kolkota, Ooty, Panchgani and Delhi. Viewers can expect music, interaction with film-makers and workshops on topics like bio mimicry. The themes of the films include climate change, conservation, activism, ecosphere, indigenous wisdom, urbanisation, food politics, capitalism, sustainable living and products. 

Going by the official trailers on the ALT EFF website, the films promise to be creative and eclectic. The core of the Turkish, no-dialogue animation film Scream for Ice is a haiku. “The Sun shines, ice melts. A polar bear on its own. A child cries out ah!” 

Belgian-French film Aya is an award-winning story about a girl growing up with her mother on the island of Lahou. As the sea rises, the joyful and carefree Aya has to decide whether to leave her island or not. 

In How to Kill a Cloud, Finnish scientist Hannele Kohonen gets the opportunity of a lifetime, to create rain in the desert of the United Arab Emirates. But there are many dilemmas. What will she do? 

A rare Marsican bear family wanders down from the Italian Apennines to the charming village of Villalago, in search of food in the local orchards. This British Italian film shows the viewer the fragility of our connection with nature.

Watch an animated character wander through real-life nature in Ari Glick’s documentary Wonders of the World. Step into the love story of Chelmala and Bhargavi Srinivasulu in The Bat Man and Woman of India

All the films can be viewed for free over a 10-day period at The platform also encourages a pay-as-you-please policy. The organisers hope that this alternative economic model will help to disseminate ground-breaking stories on climate issues to a large number of people.  “We want the stories to be heard by everyone and to be presented in a more palatable, hopeful manner, without a daunting, doomsday vibe. We want people to understand the issues of environment and be involved in some way, however small,” says Shrestha. 

As a first step, one can register to view the films for free. The schedule includes trailers of the films. Registrations are open till November 16 here:

Mala Kumar is the author of  Up the Mountains of India and other books. 

Also read: Climate Change: Show us the money, say developing countries

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