W.Va. film festival promotes living in harmony with the natural world

October 31, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • The American Conservation Film Festival will take place Thursday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 4, in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and will include films focusing on the preservation of natural resources and cultural traditions.
Submitted photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Lights. Cameras. Conservation.

As they have for the past 10 years, filmmakers, producers, educators and audiences will gather in this small, historic town to address global environmental issues through the use of imagery.

It’s the American Conservation Film Festival — an annual event that provides a venue for a diverse range of films and documentaries focusing on the preservation of natural resources and cultural traditions.

This year’s festival will be held today through Sunday, Nov. 4, and will include not only films, but post-show Q&As, workshops and children’s programs.

Started by a group of volunteers who shared both an interest in filmmaking and a commitment to conservation, the festival has continued to grow throughout the decade and today, draws film submissions from around the world, said Ann Watson, ACFF publicity person.

“Over the years, we have increased the number of films that are shown, as well as venues,” she said.

This year, Watson said, 65 films from around the world will be offered at five locations, including the National Conservation Training Center, the Shepherdstown Opera House and three venues on the campus of Shepherd University.

“While this is a conservation festival, not all of the films are strictly about ecological conservation,” Watson said. “Some are about the conservation of certain languages and cultures and the need to preserve and honor those traditions.”

While many of the films have a serious tone, “there are films that also are very entertaining,” she added. “We have films from students who are carrying on conservation film efforts. But they frequently add their own style, including levity, to their topics.”

Watson said the festival draws, not only filmmakers and speakers from around the world, but also audiences.

“Last year, more than 4,000 people attended the many programs offered,” she said. “This year, with the increased number of venues, we’re hoping to draw even more.”

A highlight of the 10th anniversary of the American Conservation Film Festival will be the premiere of “The Dust Bowl” by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, Watson said.

“The film, which chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, will be shown in full length — three hours — before it will be released on PBS,” she explained. “Because of the length of the film, there will be an intermission.”

Watson said a Q&A with associate producer Susan Shumaker will follow showings of “The Dust Bowl” on Friday, Nov. 2, and Sunday, Nov. 4.

Another highlight is the appearance of Alexandra Cousteau, filmmaker and granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau, who will be participating in Reynolds River Night on Saturday, Nov. 3. A global advocate on water issues, she will introduce her film, “Our Nation’s River: A System on the Edge,” which focuses on the Potomac River. She also will participate in a panel discussion.

Returning by popular demand is 3-D Friday Night at the Frank Center. Beginning at 8 p.m., two 3-D films will be shown — “Ice Bear” followed by “The Predator Coast.” Organizers note that the graphic nature of some of the scenes in both films might not be suitable for children.

If you go ...       

WHAT: American Conservation Film Festival

WHEN: Today through Sunday, Nov. 4; various times

WHERE: Five locations in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

COST: $10 individual tickets; $40 festival pass. Senior, student and military discounts. Purchase tickets at the door or go to

MORE: A complete schedule for the American Conservation Film Festival is available at

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