15th annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival returns this month as a virtual event

A scene from the documentary “Rust,” directed by Rafal Malecki. Photo courtesy of the Princeton Public Library.

The Princeton Environmental Film Festival will be held online again for the second year in a row, from Oct. 12 through Oct. 24. The 15th annual festival features 34 films and is free to the public.

Films will be available on demand with some restrictions during the festival. The lineup and instructions for viewing the films using the Eventive platform can be found at princetonlibrary.org/peff

Film Highlights:

In “The Ants and the Grasshopper,” directors Raj Patel and Zak Piper deliver a portrait of activist Anita Chitaya, who has worked in Malawi to bring abundant food from dead soil, make men fight for gender equality, and end child hunger in her village. Now, to save her home from extreme weather, she faces her greatest challenge: persuading Americans that climate change is real. Presented in partnership with NOFA-NJ.

In “Baato,” filmmakers Kate Stryker and Lucas Millard join the journey of Mikma and her family, who annually travel by foot from their village deep in the Himalayas of Nepal to sell local medicinal plants in urban markets. This year, construction of a new highway to China has begun in their roadless valley, changing everything.

In “Becoming Cousteau,” from National Geographic Documentary Films, two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus takes an inside look at Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his life, his iconic films and inventions, and the experiences that made him the 20th century’s most renowned environmental voice. This film will be available to stream Oct. 12-14.  

“Bring Your Own Brigade,” directed by Lucy Walker, looks at the 2018 wildfires that killed 88 residents and destroyed tens of thousands of homes in the cities of Malibu and Paradise. The film reveals that there are numerous steps that can be taken to not only mitigate the catastrophic devastation caused by wildfires but also to restore health and balance to woodlands that have been long mismanaged. Previous films by Lucy Walker screened at the PEFF include “Wasteland” and “The Crash Reel.”

Rafal Malecki’s film “Rust” is a portrait of working artist and sculptor Mariola Wawrzusiak-Borcz, who roams post-industrial areas in search of scrap metal. During the welding process, she creates sculptures of endangered animals and children affected by war and the ravages of civilization. 

“Fast Fashion: The Real Price of Low-Cost Fashion” explores how the planet is being overwhelmed with clothes, fueled by fast disposable fashion that enables consumers to constantly renew their wardrobes. The film, directed by Gilles Bovon and Edouard Perri, examines how these clothes, produced at a low price, have a very high environmental cost.

In “Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust,” director Ann Kaneko provides a fresh interpretation of the Japanese American confinement site by examining the environmental and political history behind the World War II camp. Prior to the war, Manzanar was where Native Americans were driven out and farmers and ranchers were bought out by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. By connecting this camp to California’s environmental history, this film shows the intersectionality of how Japanese Americans, indigenous communities, and locals have been mistreated by government entities.

In “Reflection: A Walk with Water,” filmmaker Emmett Brennan contends that society has lost touch with the delicate and crucial place water occupies in the environment. Taking a several-hundred-mile trek on foot along the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Brennan joins like-minded activists on a mission meant to raise awareness about California’s water crisis. 

A collection of “Made in New Jersey” shorts features a close look at black squirrels, mockingbirds, and Brood-X cicadas. The films also shine a light on natural destinations in Princeton, Cadwalader Park in Trenton, public art in Camden, and the inspiration from the Pine Barrens for Maya Lin’s art installation “Ghost Forest.”