At the Princeton Public Library, our community is always foremost in our minds. Is it any wonder why Princeton Environmental Film Festival (PEFF) founder, Susan Conlon, and Kim Dorman, the library’s Community Engagement Coordinator, made “Community” the theme of this year’s festival? PEFF, which runs from March 27 through April 2 and is now in its 11th year, focuses this year both on the way we interact with our planet and on the ways our environment affects group dynamics.
For instance, Mike Day’s gorgeous and harrowing film, The Islands and the Whales, set in the Faroe Islands, did what I thought no film could do: it made me, a vegan for decades, feel empathy toward a community of whale hunters. Even those of us who fancy ourselves receptive to new ideas can sometimes forget how uncomfortable it can be to have our biases and assumptions challenged, especially when we are left without a stable new set of biases or assumptions with which to replace them. Day does not romanticize the Faroe Islanders, their hunt for whales or the ensuing slaughter: it is unvarnished and, for me, the stuff of nightmares. The achievement of the film is that we still see these hunters as loving people, as peers, and as members of our extended community.
The idea of community is also reflected in the creation of the festival itself: partners and volunteers include Church & Dwight, The Whole Earth Center, The Nature Conservancy, Princeton Garden Theatre, The Friends of the Princeton Public Library and this year, for the first time, the Princeton Environmental Institute (they have posted some great introductions to PEFF’s films) and Princeton University’s Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
I encourage you to check the PEFF schedule and attend as many of these great films as you can. The only thing better than watching a great film is to watch it alongside the members of your community.