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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Forest Films

Air Date: Week of

The International Year of Forests will be launched at the UN General Assembly in February.

New York’s UN headquarters is rolling out the green carpet for the first International Forest Film Festival. One of the festival’s judges, Jan McAlpine, talks with host Steve Curwood about some of the inaugural, winning submissions.


CURWOOD: It’s that time of year when Hollywood puts on the glitz and glamour - Academy Award Season. But forget the Oscars - in New York City, they’re rolling out the green carpet for the first International Forest Film Festival. The festival kicks off the United Nations International Year of the Forest. It's a series of events designed to raise global awareness about the forests of the planet. Over 160 films were submitted in six categories, and here with the envelopes is Jan McAlpine. She's one of the three judges, and director of the UN Forum on Forests. Ms. McAlpine, welcome to LOE.

McALPINE: Thank you, I’m delighted to be here.

CURWOOD: So let's first talk about the UN International Year of the Forest - what will you be doing to raise awareness?

McALPINE: We have a global launch, which will take place on the 2nd of February in New York at UN Headquarters with some very eminent people, and interspersed with those speakers will be film clips from the International Forest Film Festival.

CURWOOD: Now, why have a film festival? And, by the way - what’s the name of an award for your film festival?

McALPINE: Well, you know, we’re welcome to accept ideas for the name of the award.

CURWOOD: Well, um, maybe you should call them the ‘woodies’!

McALPINE: (Laughs!) Uh, no. I don’t think so. Maybe, I don’t know, the green award. We’ll have to come up with something good, won’t we?

CURWOOD: Well, it’s a tree, you’re going to have to call it the ‘big green!’

McALPINE: Yeah, the big-green, I like it! Okay, you can be part of our brainstorming team.

CURWOOD: Now, there’s one film in recognition of the inspiration of an impact that an individual can make on the world, that won a special jury award from you, it’s called ‘The Man who Stopped the Desert’- tell me about this film.

McALPINE: It’s just an amazing film about a man in Burkina Faso. He was somewhat successful in working in the marketplace, had a business, but he decided that he wanted to go back and farm. And when he did, he looked at indigenous farming methods, and he figured out how to use those methods to improve the soil, but he also planted trees in order to create a break for the wind, because that area is very much dry lands, and was fast desertifying. And he actually has a huge impact throughout the region, and now, I think, throughout the world.

Jan McAlpine (Daphnis Novoa/United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat)

[CLIP FROM MOVIE: Thanks to his work, vast moonscapes of desert land have been transformed into fertile, life-giving soil…. Crops have been planted… Forests have regrown… And, the people have returned.]

CURWOOD: That’s a remarkable story of perseverance and adversity. That’s a very compelling film, but why did you chose it - why did you select it to be an award winner?

McALPINE: Well, I work for the United Nations Forum on Forest, and one of the things that the forum insisted was that we have to look at trees outside of forests as being as important as large expanses of forests. And what was most impressive here was recognizing the role that trees have even in dry lands. Also, the year of the forest is celebrating forests and people. And this is a great example of the contribution by one person who made a significant difference.

CURWOOD: You had a category of living forests, and the winner of that was ‘Kingdom of the Forest’- here’s a clip from that now.

[FILM CLIP: Seduction. Drama. Danger. And deceit unfold….in the kingdom of the forest.]

McALPINE: This film, as you heard, is just amazing. It really shows how important each creature is and how much each creature depends on the other. It’s a beautifully filmed movie, it also has a terrific storyline and it explains the importance of forests and ecosystems that you can’t capture in words, and my words are a really poor equivalent for this kind of story.

CURWOOD: Now, the winner in the shorts category was ‘Nom, Tèw: Man of the Soil’- now, there’s no narration, but here’s a bit of the soundtrack:


McALPINE: It’s a wonderful movie. First of all, I really enjoyed watching a film with no voiceover. When judging the film, a lot of the films we saw - people were talking too much, and the story was often much more told through the visual - visual story. In this case, they didn’t. They showed this man who basically lives in the forest, and he is going and picking fruit and making soup or stew - and it’s just this beautiful…almost like a dance… about his interaction and his knowledge of his own backyard - it’s really beautifully done.

The International Year of Forests will be launched at the UN General Assembly in February.

CURWOOD: You know, I liked one of the finalists in the short category that didn’t make it to winner, this is the one produced by Greenpeace - it starts with a family - they’re sitting in their living room, they’re watching a nature documentary on TV about sharks -

[FILM CLIP: The white shark has a body language of its own which we’re only beginning to recognize…this inquisitive shark uses its…..]

CURWOOD: All of a sudden, bulldozers roll up, chainsaws start roaring, the family’s living room is smashed to smithereens.


CURWOOD: Not exactly your typical film festival fare.

McALPINE: No, but we had a huge range of films and some of them were, like that one, really great.

[FILM CLIP: Scary, isn’t it? Having your home destroyed around you. But your home can be rebuilt - ours has taken thousands of years to grow.]

McALPINE: It was very hard to pick the finalists. The judges had a terrible time, because a lot of these films should have won - that’s a great example of a terrific story and very vivid storytelling.

CURWOOD: And, you can tell me - are your eyes a little tired after 160 films?

McALPINE: (Laughs.) Yeah, my whole holidays were spent, night and day watching them - but it was fun!

CURWOOD: Thank you, Jan McAlpine.

McALPINE: Thank you.

CURWOOD: Jan McAlpine is the director of the UN Forum on Forests - and a judge of the International Forest Film Festival which was sponsored by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. To learn more about the award winning films and a link to see some of them, check out our website at LOE.org.




Learn more about the International Year of Forests

Watch clips from the winning films, and host your own Forest Film Festival!


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