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Film festival explores link between humanities, sustainability

January 26, 2009

A four-day film festival in February that includes the Arizona premiere of “Sizzle,” a global warming comedy, will be held at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

Also featured at the festival, which is free and open to the public, will be two student films that won top honors in last semester’s ASU student film contest.

The festival is designed to showcase how the humanities and the issue of sustainability can interact to address global environmental challenges. It is being presented by ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research and the Film and Media Studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The festival kicks off Feb. 5 with “Sizzle,” a global warming documentary that combines science and comedy by scientist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson, The screening is part of Darwinfest at ASU – a celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday and 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species.” Screenings of exemplary and award-winning student films will continue Feb. 10-12. Discussions led by ASU scholars will be held each evening after the screening. Below are details about each film and panel discussion. More information about the “Humanities and Sustainability Film Festival” is available at or 480-965-6747.

Thursday, Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in Murdock Hall, Room 201
“Sizzle” – The film is a mockumentary, a comedic documentary that is in fact fictional, which tells the story of an uptight filmmaker whose mission is to tell the world the scientific truth about the state of the planet. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with the filmmaker, Randy Olson, and Daniel Bernardi, ASU associate professor and director of the Film and Media Studies program. The screening is sponsored by ASU’s Center for Biology and Society, Global Institute of Sustainability, Institute for Humanities Research, School of Earth and Space Exploration, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Whole Foods Market. More details and ticket information about “Sizzle” and Darwinfest at:

Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 6:15 p.m. in Coor Hall, Room 174; reception 5:45-6:15 p.m.
“Blue Vinyl,” a sardonic but sobering exposé by activist filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold, reveals the potentially toxic effects of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) through a personal narrative. Ann Koblitz, professor of women and gender studies, and Joan McGregor, professor of philosophy in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will lead a discussion immediately after the screening.

Following “Blue Vinyl” will be the screening of the first of two student film contest documentaries – “Naa Daa Nanitin: Corn Teachings.” The student filmmakers are Michael Ernesto Sullivan, a junior majoring in global studies, and Jay C. McCray, who graduated from ASU last year with a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies. Their film provides a glimpse into the intimate relationship the Navajo people have with the natural environment. Daniel Shilling, Fellow and research professional in the Institute for Humanities Research, will discuss the film with the filmmakers immediately after the showing. A presentation of the film contest award to the student filmmakers will follow the discussion.

Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. in Coor Hall, Room 120; reception 6:30-7 p.m.
“Kilowatt Ours,” an award-winning film, is a solutions-oriented look at one of America’s most pressing environmental challenges: energy. Filmmaker Jeff Barrie offers hope as he turns the camera on himself and asks, “How can I make a difference?” Following the film will be a discussion led by Paul Hirt, associate professor of history.

Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in Coor Hall, Room 120
“Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town” takes a look at the populist spirit that engulfs a small Virginia town when retail giant Wal-Mart comes knocking with blueprints in hand. Following the film will be a discussion led by Mary Margaret Fonow, founding director of ASU’s School of Social Transformation.

Thursday, Feb. 12 at 6:15 in Coor Hall, Room 174; reception 5:45-6:15 p.m.
“The Real Dirt on Farmer John” is a documentary that follows farmer John Peterson, a man who turned his family farm into an idyllic artists' community in the 1970s, mismanaged it into bankruptcy in the 1980s, and rose from the ashes to success as an organic farmer in the present day. Following the film will be a discussion led by Joni Adamson, associate professor of English in the School of Applied Arts and Sciences at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Following the showing and discussion of “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” there will be the screening of the second award-winning student documentary film – “National Medicine: A Sustainable Alternative for Underdeveloped Countries.” The filmmaker is Anthony Trujillo, a senior majoring in global studies with a minor in Spanish. His film examines health care for underdeveloped countries by focusing on the country of Nicaragua. It proposes that natural medicine can be a viable solution for basic health care within these countries. Kevin Sandler, assistant professor of film and media studies, will discuss the film with the filmmaker after the showing. A presentation of the film contest award will follow.