Green screens

Local groups connect the community through environmental films

FILMS WITH FOCUS<br>An array of environmental issues will be showcased during the Greendance Film Festival. Pictured from left to right: Leonardo DiCaprio in <i>The 11th Hour</i>, singing penguins in <i>Happy Feet</i>, and Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis in <i>King Corn</i>.

An array of environmental issues will be showcased during the Greendance Film Festival. Pictured from left to right: Leonardo DiCaprio in The 11th Hour, singing penguins in Happy Feet, and Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis in King Corn.

At the movies:
To see the Greendance Film Festival’s full schedule, check out

To learn more about Bioneers, go to or show up at the Chico Women’s Club at 7 p.m. each Thursday from Feb. 28 to March 20 and watch the videos.

While envisioning the community in 2030, Chico residents recently placed a sustainable, thriving arts community at the top of their wish list.

Those wishes for an evolving green-minded culture are starting to come true, as local eco-conscious groups present two separate events: the Greendance Film Festival and the Bioneers video screenings.

A collaborative effort by Chico State, the Chico Sustainability Group and a collective of environmentally sensitive citizens, Greendance Film Festival is aimed at infusing the community with fresh ideas, information and encouragement. Built upon last year’s Ch*Eco Film Fest, the freshly named Greendance received more than 100 submissions from professional and aspiring filmmakers around the globe.

A local jury composed of professional video editors and filmmakers whittled down the selections to 34 films. They will be screened at various locations, including Chico State, Butte College and the El Rey Theatre, beginning next Thursday (Feb. 28) and continuing until a winner is announced and featured the following Sunday (March 2).

Each selection has been recognized by similar film festivals around the world as a notable achievement in the genre of environmental film.

CONSCIOUS COUPLE<br>Matt Peterson and Leila Conners Peterson are movers and shakers in the green realm. He leads a national environmental organization and she founded a company that helps organizations use the Web, and co-wrote, -directed and -produced <i>The 11th Hour</i>, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.

A full rundown of the films is available at the festival’s Web site (, which also links viewers to an array of exotic animals, quixotic visionaries and thought-provoking dilemmas that are creating modern humanity’s emerging ecological story.

Michele Lott, one of the Greendance organizers, said the films span a wide array of themes—local to global—that frame sustainable awareness on issues involving wildlife, local food, water and energy resources, sustainable economics, soft transportation and social justice.

“We wanted to bring the greater community in,” she said. “Mom with kids, and the guy who may otherwise not come to something like this.”

Greendance extends beyond the traditional format of back-to-back film screenings with a series of discussions with Chico State professors of biology, geography and environmental science. They will provide academic insights and help facilitate group reflections on the films, whose topics range from urban agriculture and the wonderment of insects to the business practices of Exxon Mobil and reviving our wilderness landscapes.

In addition to local experts, the festival will include keynote speeches by Chico State alumnus Matt Peterson, president of Global Green USA, and his wife, Leila Conners Peterson, co-director of The 11th Hour.

To keep the topics local and relevant, Greendance will include a series of workshops on documentary filmmaking and audio recording in nature, as well as a short film competition featuring submissions from Butte County high school students. The event coincides with an ongoing sustainable art opening at downtown’s Urban Roost, as well as another film series highlighting a prestigious environmental conference.

PIONEERING PEOPLE<br>Van Jones (left) and Paul Hawken are just a few of the environmental visionaries who have spoken at Bioneers.

If Greendance tells the challenges of our age, Bioneers is the messenger of hope. The Marin-based conference has met each October for the last 18 years, gathering the most commanding and innovative of environmental entrepreneurs, indigenous leaders, scientists, lawyers and artistic activists from around the planet.

A certain amount of exhilaration certainly comes from hearing the environmental realm’s elite speak about some of the world’s deepest social and environmental concerns in creative and hopeful ways. Unfortunately, attending the conference comes at a rather unsustainable price at about $100 per day.

In Chico, however, screenings of Bioneers are quite the bargain: $2 suggested donation, with additional discounts to students and other folks with limited incomes. The series—7 p.m. each Thursday from Feb. 28 to March 20 at the Chico Women’s Club (592 E. Third St.)—will include subjects such as localized food, social equity, community arts and urban ecosystems.

The videos will expand upon many of the subjects raised at Greendance by featuring keynote addresses collected over the last several years of the conference. Among the speakers featured will be environmental justice pioneer Van Jones and ecological entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken, who together weave the case that for a fully sustainable future, people from every class and ethnicity must be included in the process.

Hawken’s message that “there is no environmental movement without social justice” is what inspired Judy Fox and the Chico Women’s Club to bring Bioneers videos here for the second year in a row.

‘I had an ah ha! moment rafting the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru,” Fox wrote in a recent e-mail. ‘I saw that poverty caused them to handle lethal mercury and set it loose in the waters and ecosystem around them, to return to their bodies a second time through the fish they ate.”

As the Bioneers say: ‘We are all connected.”