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EcoCinema Cafe Film Festival fuels sustainable thinking at ASU

The EcoCinema Cafe at ASU merges film and expert dialogue, offering a vibrant platform for exploring sustainability


"It beckons the community to come together, learn and be inspired to make a difference in the world."

The EcoCinema Cafe Film Festival at ASU is more than just a social gathering — it's a confluence of ideas, sustainability and cinema that aims to create a blueprint for a future where humanity and nature thrive in harmony.

The event, set for April 17 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union, is not an average academic endeavor but instead a vivid exploration of how the global community can pivot towards a more sustainable life.

The film festival prepares students to tackle environmental challenges with informed, effective strategies. Ideally, this event will also kickstart ASU's involvement with the Harmony With Nature project, an international sustainability effort.

The EcoCinema Cafe serves as a key platform within this broader mission, engaging the community through film and discussion.

Sandra Perez Gonzalez, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering with a focus on energy and environment, is the president of the Carbon Council, the organization hosting the event.

"The whole main idea is how people need to work with nature instead of against it," Gonzales said. "It relates to soil as well as the ocean ... more sustainable ways of doing farming or fishing practices."

This sentiment sets the stage for a compelling lineup of films and documentaries aimed at showcasing groundbreaking environmental practices, featuring titles such as "Kiss the Ground" and "Fantastic Fungi," which explore regenerative agriculture and the symbiotic relationships within ecosystems. 

The event will also include film producer Peter Byck's student film selection which offers insights from the next generation of filmmakers, an unannounced water film focusing on vital water conservation efforts, and WILD HOPE short films such as "The Big Oyster" and "Does Nature Have Rights?" that delve into ecosystem restoration and legal rights of nature.

The highlight of the festival will be a film called "Common Ground," a sequel to "Kiss the Ground," which continues the exploration of sustainable farming practices.

Together, these films aim to inspire attendees towards actionable solutions for environmental challenges, encapsulating the EcoCinema Cafe's mission of fostering harmony with nature and promoting sustainable living practices.

The event will feature not only films about protecting and restoring nature, but also speakers and discussions focused on actionable climate solutions and student involvement.

"Our speakers (are) people from the ASU School of Sustainability (and) civic clubs," Gonzales said. "We're trying to get more of what's already here at ASU and our experts and professors."

Thomas Kisby-Marrone is a sophomore studying conservation biology and a main organizer of the event. Bridging the local focus with a wider perspective, Kisby-Marrone aimed to expand on this lineup by introducing additional expertise and thematic depth.

"Some of the guest speakers we have ... include experts in the U.S. and filmmakers as well," Kisby-Marrone said. "We're in the talks with certain experts that have sort of an ecological or water background."

The free event is open to all ASU community members, including students, faculty, staff and alumni, inviting the entire community to engage in meaningful conversations about sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

"It's important ... to open up the dialogue, not just, you know, what's the problem, but what can we do?" Kisby-Marrone said. "How can we work with nature as a partner to address some of these environmental issues?"

By inviting students to explore how they can contribute to sustainability efforts, the EcoCinema Cafe fosters a proactive community of thinkers and doers. The concept of the event also lays down a path for future leaders in sustainability, showcasing real-world applications of ecological principles.

Gonzales said that the film festival showcases that college students have the ability to make something large-scale happen. 

The level of collaboration that went into the event showcases the topic's wide-reaching nature. While the Carbon Council is hosting the event, co-sponsors like the Biomimicry Club and Campus Student Sustainability Initiatives at ASU enhance the event's outreach and impact, creating a dynamic platform for promoting sustainability. 

Together, these collaborations form the backbone of the EcoCinema Cafe, emphasizing the collective effort required to drive meaningful environmental action.

The future of the project holds promise, with plans to further the dialogue initiated by the EcoCinema Cafe.

"The next steps after ... the EcoCinema Cafe is to ... organize focus groups for the ecological literacy curriculum," Kisby-Marrone said.

ASU's EcoCinema Cafe stands as a testament to the power of collective action, education and the arts in steering society towards a sustainable future. It beckons the community to come together, learn and be inspired to make a difference in the world.

Edited by River Graziano, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.

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