Film Festival Nurtures Awareness of Ecology

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Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A film festival with no awards, celebrities or world premieres isn't likely to draw many paparazzi - or patrons, for that matter.

Tell that to Flo Stone, the founder and coordinator of the Environmental Film Festival, now enjoying its 10th year in the District.

The ecologically conscious festival, now running through March 24 at various District venues, gives audiences a taste of the majesty of nature without the trimmings of traditional film festivals.

Miss Stone isn't blind to what many may perceive of her festival's content at first blush.

"They think of boring polemics, people preaching at you," Miss Stone says. "None of these films are that way."

The festival's schedule, chockablock with features, animated fare and documentaries, defies any staid expectations.

The strength of the collective films lies in the originality of each, she says, the way so many filmmakers take familiar material and inject it with new life.

Even the more tragic films rise above the somber settings, such as "ABC Africa," which unspools at 1 p.m. March 24 at Visions Cinema and Bistro Lounge in the Dupont Circle area.

"I've never seen a film like that," she says of the movie, shot with a digital camera. "[Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami] takes you on the voyage he's going on, seeing the tragedy of AIDS. Yet the film has this incredible sense of the human spirit rising above this huge impact."

The festival, which will include 54 District premieres, also draws from similarly themed events, like the United Nations Association Film Festival.

"People can see the very best from other festivals," she says. "It's almost like a gift ... we're able to show the winners from other astounding festivals."

Miss Stone's inspiration for the festival struck while she was attending a festival dedicated to anthropologist Margaret Mead at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

She discussed with some of her colleagues her disappointment that more environmentally fueled films lacked the exposure they richly deserved.

"I wanted really quality films that people normally don't see to get a wider audience," she says. "The environment encompasses everything."

A fellow panel member took her diatribe to heart, connecting Miss Stone with New York's Golden Rule Foundation, which gave her a grant to jump-start her notion.

She chose the District for the festival's home to She chose the District for the festival's home to take advantage of the city's many museums, libraries, embassies and environmental groups.

The first festival featured a modest repertoire of about 45 films. …