By Renata Pumarol
I had the pleasure to attend the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF), which took place in Santo Domingo from September 4th to September 8th of this past year.
Sponsored and produced by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development/ Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo. DREFF aims to raise awareness and deepen the understanding of environmental issues among Dominican audiences. At the same time, the Festival celebrates the beauty and diversity of the Dominican Republic’s natural heritage and offers insights into attitudes and actions that will contribute to its appreciation, conservation and sustainable use.The program
The film festival opened on september 4th with the movie Mother caring for 7 billion which focused on the effects of the earth’s fast growing population and its effect on consumption and the environment. The film was very controversial, as it tapped into religion, economics, family planning and gender inequality.
After the film was screened, a conversation was followed with the writer and director of the film Christophe Fauchere.
On september 5th I attended, Reserva de la Biosfera: Jaragua, Bahoruco y Enriquillo, which was almost exclusively attended by students from a public school in Santo Domingo. The short film was designed to make students appreciate the beauty of their country, to value it and to protect it.
Funglode describes these three Biosphere Reserve:
- Jaragua National Park: a marvelous concentration of beauty and biodiversity, this documentary presents the special geomorphology of this park including aboriginal caves, beaches of the southeastern coast, especially Bahía de las Águilas, as well as Oviedo Laguna and the varied flora grouped into 12 different endemic flora and fauna.
- Sierra de Bahoruco National Park: a natural symbol of the Dominican homeland, this film shows the extraordinary variety of ecosystems and environments which, much like a surrealist painting, are combined in this peculiar sierra – the Hoyo de Pelempito, Loma del Toro, Zapotén and the characteristic elevated regional endemism that refreshingly unfold in this documentary.
- Lake Enriquillo National Park and Cabritos Island: a unique spectacle of highly salinized and below sea level waters, inland islands, the American crocodile population and rich birdlife are on display in Lake Enriquillo and Cabritos Island, an unsurpassed Dominican landscape.
Also at this screening,a marvelous short film was showcased, called ¿Basura o Recurso? Experiencia de la República Dominicana. A short documentary film about Dominican Republic’s growing garbage problem, which is starting to impact some of its poorest neighborhoods. The film highlights how a cultural change is starting to happen, communities and individuals have started to see garbage as a resource, rather than disposable goods. Through various business and educational projects, the viewer watches besides the obvious benefit to the environment, recycling allows economic development through the creation of new businesses and industries.
On Friday september 6th, I had the pleasure to attend a great workshop on Nature Photography with two of the most recognized Dominican photographers, Eladio Fernández and José Alejandro Álvarez:
- Eladio Fernández is a conservation photographer, a naturalist and an editorial producer of photography and illustrated children’s books. Eladio holds one of the most extensive image banks on the landscapes, flora and fauna ofthe Greater Antilles. His photographs have been published in the “Wildlife As Canon Sees It “ad campaign for National Geographic, and in Condor, Nature Conservancy and Living Bird, among others. His images are represented by NHPA stock agency.He currently produces books for a series of local and international corporate sponsors. Among his titles in print are: “Hispaniola: A Photograhic Journey Through Island Biodiversity” (Grupo SID / Harvard University Press, 2007), “Orchids of the Dominican Republic and Haiti” (AMCHAM 2007), “Jamaica: A Photographic Journey Through The Land of Wood and Water” (IMCA 2008), “Cuba, un encuentro con su naturaleza” (IMCA 2010) y “Reserva Científica Ebano Verde, un encuentro con la naturaleza” (APAP 2010).
Eladio is co-author, together with Steve Latta and Chris Rimmer (et Al), of the field guide “Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti” (Princeton University Press, 2006).
- José Alejandro Álvarez is an award-winning underwater photographer from the Dominican Republic, who has worked worldwide in some of the most beautiful and exiting ocean spots. Lately he has also become involved in the conservation of the marine ecosystems of his home country, using his images to raise awareness about conservation issues. Starting with scuba diving he developed his passion for underwater photography. He took photos in spectacular and extraordinary places as Isla del Coco, Malpeo, Fiji, Bali, Wkatobi, Caicos, Cozumel to name only a few. Álvarez is a founder member of the Fundación Espeleobuceo Hispaniola and member of the directors board of Reef Check Dominican Republic. In addition, he is co-author of the book Cuevas Sumergidas de la República Dominicana and author of the book Mar Azul.Both photographers gave a thorough presentation of their photographic work and their experiences while trying to take pictures of nature.
The workshop was followed by the screening of the beautiful film The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, by the two-time Academy Award nominated Lucy Walker. This inspiring documentary shares the journey of survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan’s recent tsunami. They find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins – a symbol of hope and new beginnings in Japanese culture.
The movie was followed by a presentation and conversation with the director Lucy Walker, about her experience in Japan and why she was inspired to do this movie.
On Saturday september 9th, was the closing event of the festival, and the annual Globo Verde Award. In this event, awards were given to organizers and filmmakers trying to raise awareness and have an impact on global warming and the environment. There was contest that called for young filmmakers to submit a short educational spot calling about the environment.
Overall it’s a great film festival that makes an effort to be educational and is not afraid to be controversial. It is a good gathering of Dominicans that care about their future and their environment.