Festiver: a green celebration

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Colombia is the second most diverse country in the world, with 10% of the world’s flora and fauna, and 20% of the world’s birds. And taking this into account, the environmental problems in Colombia, generate a great impact on the biological diversity in the country.

The environmental quality of Colombia

In recent years the environmental quality in Colombia has deteriorated at a constant and unprecedented rate. This has led to an environmental crisis that is defined by high deforestation, water pollution and ecosystem alterations. The air quality in large cities such as Bogotá, Barranquilla, Cali, Medellín, Tunja, among others, exceeds accepted levels of pollution.

Festival de Cine Verde © Solkes

The reasons for this are varied. Let’s start with the fact that water pollution in the country is mainly caused by domestic waste, agricultural activities, industrial waste, mining activities, inadequate management of landfills and leachate. In addition to this, there is the incorrect management of hospital waste.

Considering such a problem some people have decided to take action on the issue. Actors Toto Vega and Nórida Rodríguez decided to create Festiver, a non-profit organization dedicated to organizing, producing and promoting Colombia’s main environmental film festival, the Barichara Green Film Festival FESTIVER, in the municipality of Barichara, Santander.

Solkes: Why develop a festival of these particular characteristics?

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: We wanted an event that would be different from the others and that would generate environmental awareness through cinema as a universal language. Additionally, we wanted to promote the production of environmental audiovisual works.

Solkes: How did this festival come about and what gave you the impetus to create it?

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: Festiver was born out of a concern for the environment and a passion for film.

The idea

The basic idea is to raise awareness about the environment and the care of natural resources, using film and audiovisual media. Without a doubt, this is a great way to reach many people as it is an effective tool to educate, entertain and transmit knowledge.

It is important that a new generation of filmmakers, artists and public are committed to the defence of the habitat and ecosystems; to create spaces for debate, to develop academic processes, artistic and recreational activities around the theme. And generating this new attitude of change is not really easy.

Basically the festival is the same, it is an artesanal event. What has changed are the quality of the movies, every year they are better, the applications and how we work with technology.

It is an arduous work, of much duration and dedication, in several occasions with too many ups and downs but by more inconveniences the final result always is of total satisfaction. For this reason, it is necessary and significant the presentation of national and international cinematographic contents with environmental themes.

In the 2016 edition, the festival focused on climate change and peace. Likewise, support for post-production will continue with the “Photosynthesis” section for feature films that are in their first cut. On the other hand, for the first time, an international residency for scriptwriters with environmental themes will be opened for experienced screenwriters.

Festival de Cine Verde © Solkes

Solkes: Short, medium and long term objectives?

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: In the short term to make an optimal 6th edition, in the medium term to be able to take the sample of the festival and our section “Medicine, remedies for the good health of the cinema” (Festiver Workshops) to all the corners of Colombia and to other countries. In the long term, to replicate the festival in another place.

Solkes: Do you consider that the arts, in this case the audiovisual media and cinema, can be important tools in the process of raising awareness and sensitizing people about the environment and its importance? Because or because not.

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: Absolutely yes. Cinema is a very powerful tool to generate awareness, when cinema reaches a particular place and tells stories that speak of the relationship of human beings with their different environments, it becomes a determining mechanism for reflection and change.

Solkes: What would people who don’t know about the festival like to know?

Festival de Cine Verde © Solkes

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: That it is an enormous effort that requires all the support, not only economic, because this festival is a very powerful tool for the construction of a new country and consolidation of the peace process and the post-conflict.

Solkes: Do you consider that art is healing?

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: Definitely what changes people is art and culture, from that point of view Colombia needs a big dose to turn the page of war.

Solkes: What do we need in Colombia with respect to film festivals and environmental issues?

Each person that has done something with their experience and knowledge about the festival has become a member of the FESTIVER family, a family that is growing every day.

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: Film festivals are audience builders, we democratize the cinema and we manage to promote and stimulate it, there are films that the public would never see if it weren’t for the work we do in film festivals. Sadly, culture is a secondary issue in the national budget, when it should be a state policy.

The only place in Colombia that is completely built in stone and tree-lined wall is Barichara. Barichara (located in the department of Santander) was declared National Monument and Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Solkes: Why is it developed in Barichara ( the most beautiful town in Colombia )?

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: Barichara is a very special place for Nórida and for me, there we have a life project for the future that we started to build with the festival.

On the other hand, its sustainable and colonial architecture makes the most of the region’s natural resources, so it minimizes the impact on the environment and the inhabitants of the area.

A diverse program to improve

For the Barichara Green Film Festival to achieve all its tasks, the support of everyone is needed. This means the support of Colombians living inside and outside the country and the international community. With this support it is possible to promote inclusive cultural and environmental policies and an environmentally friendly lifestyle that contributes to the construction of peace.

Festival de Cine Verde © Solkes

Festiver will arrive again in Barichara with a diverse program. The entrance will be free to the public; it includes open air and closed room screenings of Colombian and foreign environmental films, an academic agenda with training workshops for children, youth and adults.

Eco-workshops will also be held for all audiences to promote environmental education through the reuse of waste materials.

It is important that during these workshops we manage to transmit the creation of useful objects that help to reduce the environmental impact. National and international panelists will develop conferences, master classes, meetings and conversations about cinema and the environment.

Solkes: What has had the greatest impact on you since the festival began?

Toto, co-founder of Festiver: We have met the people who keep this country going, the ones who work hard and build the social fabric.

The real underlying theme, besides the support of a film festival for our environmental improvement, is that our planet has endured a long history of environmental mistreatment that we must correct. There is no better time than the present to start generating this kind of change. Initiatives like the Barichara Green Festival are a platform for all of us to help.

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