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The 2018 American Conservation Film Festival: Inspiring Change, Offering Solutions

Image from “The Rise of Vertical Farming.”

Do you recall the last time that you attended an event that left you spinning with inspiration–with so many useful ideas that you hardly knew which to act on first? Just a short drive away, a small organization uses the power of film to engage people in conservation and offers solutions that enable each of us to make a positive change for our environment.

You’ll find the festival, in its 16th year, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia–approximately 70 minutes from our nation’s capital. The American Conservation Film Festival presents contemporary films on a wide selection of conservation topics from varying perspectives from around the world. The films and filmmakers explore stories on wildlife and wild places, food and agriculture, cultural heritage, climate change, energy use and extraction, consumption and waste, and water quality among other issues affecting our planet and ourselves. 

The 2018 American Conservation Film Festival will be held October 12-14, with an encore of award-winning films October 19-21. In partnership with Shepherd University and the National Conservation Training Center, the festival will present 36 films selected from over 300 submissions from 44 countries. Each of the films is selected on the strength of its conservation message, storytelling, and visual impact. Awards are given in seven categories, recognizing the most skillfully produced, enlightening, and compelling films on a range of important issues. 

The theme of this year’s festival, “Solutions,” features films, speakers, and programming that offer festival-goers ways to become engaged in conservation. Special programming for 2018 includes discussions with filmmakers and conservation experts, demonstrations, food-tastings, and hands-on activities for children. 

The festival also offers a two-day Conservation Filmmaker Workshop which includes expert seminars on the craft of conservation filmmaking–covering everything from camera gear to distribution–with helpful insights for filmmakers and media producers of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels.

Admission to the festival is $55 for a full festival pass (both weekends) for adults; students and ages 18 and under are admitted free to all films as space allows. Tickets are also available for each weekend or specific film blocks.

Image from “The Devil We Know.”

Among the must-see films of the 2018 lineup, The Devil We Know unravels one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time. The film tells the story of a group of citizens in West Virginia who take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical called C8–now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans – into the drinking water supply. The film, by Stephanie Soechtig and Jeremy Seifert, premiered at Sundance earlier this year.

The top honor of the festival, The Green Fire Award, is granted to The Serengeti Rules by filmmaker Nicholas Brown. The award is named in honor of Aldo Leopold and is given to the film that exhibits an extraordinary level of excellence in filmmaking, offering the audience a fresh perspective on their relationship with the environment. The Serengeti Rules shares the story of a band of young scientists and their time in the most remote and spectacular places on Earth. Driven by their insatiable curiosity about how nature works, they discover a single set of “rules” that govern all life.

Awards were also given to Enough White Teacups (Foreign Film Award), filmmaker Michelle Bauer; Walk on the Mountain (Student Film Award), filmmakers Luke Watkins, Onika Richards and Eddie Mostert of Ithaca College; Bird of Prey (Green Spark Award for highlighting Conservation Heroes), filmmaker Eric Liner; The Rise of Vertical Farming (Green Spark Award for highlighting a path to sustainability), filmmaker Geert Rozinga; Inventing Tomorrow (Green Spark Award for inspiring the next generation), filmmaker Laura Nix; and Wildlife and the Wall (Short Film Award), filmmaker Ben Masters.

“For people who care about the environment and pride themselves on getting news from the front lines, these films make a must-see list. This October we’ll be delivering investigative exposés, gorgeous nature films, and inspiring documentaries on unstoppable conservation heroes,” said American Conservation Film Festival Manager, Hilary Lo.

The full festival film lineup, trailer links, and tickets are available on the American Conservation Film Festival website at conservationfilmfest.org.  You’ll also find helpful information about visiting Shepherdstown and local accommodations. 

The American Conservation Film Festival also offers programs throughout the year, including the NextGen Capture Conservation Contest (for ages 18 and under), Conservation Video Summer Camp (for high school students), and Best of Fest screening events in Virginia and Maryland.

If you are ready to fill up on inspiration, put real solutions into action, and make a positive change, get your tickets for the 2018 American Conservation Film Festival today.

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