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Student film contest to focus on sustainability, humanities

October 07, 2008

The study of the humanities – how human beings behave toward and interpret themselves and the world – is as important to the issue of sustainability as recycling, alternative energy sources or biodiversity. Humanists contribute to the study of sustainability by rethinking culture and cultural diversity, civilization, humans’ ethical relationship to the natural world, religious attitudes toward nature, beliefs about nutrition and food, and a host of other transdisciplinary topics.

Using digital filmmaking to examine the connection between the humanities and sustainability is the challenge presented by a student documentary film contest sponsored by Arizona State University’s Institute for Humanities Research and the Film and Media Studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The contest is an opportunity for ASU students in any field of study and on any campus to examine critical approaches to the humanities and sustainability, and to offer their ideas and perspectives to the community through documentary filmmaking,” says Daniel Bernardi, associate professor and director of the Film and Media Studies program.

The contest is open to all ASU undergraduate and graduate students, individuals or teams. Submissions are due by Dec. 9. Information about how to submit films may be found at An e-board is also on the Web for students to connect with others who are interested in forming teams and can be found at

Professor Sally Kitch, director of the Institute for Humanities Research, says some specific concerns the film entries might consider include not just what threatens the environment, but how human beings have created those threats; not just what has happened to the climate or to ecosystems, but what we need to rethink about human beings’ relationship to nature; and not just who can survive the extremes of global warming, but who cannot.

The documentaries must be three to seven minutes in length from beginning to end of credits. When submitted, the documentary should be formatted for posting to and streaming on the ASU Web site. Films will be judged on quality, appropriateness to guidelines, and relevance to the theme.

Five winners will be announced Feb. 12, with the top three awarded $500 to $1,500 and two honorable mentions $250. The student works will be screened and the awards presented that day. The film competition screening will wrap up a three-day film festival related to the theme of humanities and sustainability. Several exemplary humanities-focused documentary films on sustainability will be shown starting on Feb. 5, with the screening of “Sizzle,” a global warming documentary that combines science and comedy, for the first time in Arizona. Screenings of exemplary films will continue on Feb. 10 and 11. Discussions led by ASU scholars will conclude each evening. All events are open to the public.

Ashley Lange,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences