When you hear the words “environmental film fest,” the first image that pops into your head is probably one of serious-looking people watching serious-looking documentaries.  What you might not imagine is a room full of children watching an animated krill talking about ocean pollution. But if you were lucky enough to attend the 19th Annual Environmental Film Festival’s “Smart Creatures” presentation, that’s exactly what you’d see. 

“Smart Creatures” is a selection of six animated films for children, each with a focus on an aspect of the environment. The films (46 min. total) are showing at local public libraries in Washington, DC during the festival, which showcases environmental films all over the Nation’s Capital in March. “Smart Creatures” features three films making their Washington, DC debut: The Krill is Gone, The Curious Garden, and Trees. Two other films are being shown, Child & Firefly and Lost & Found, along with Electric Car, an animated music video.

The first film, The Krill is Gone, is a humorous look at ocean pollution, ocean acidification and overfishing through the eyes of the very creatures suffering from these real concerns. The 3 minute film features a phytoplankton with a Robin Leach-like voice, a krill that can’t grow back her shell and Al Ba Core, an albacore sharing an inconvenient truth, among other characters. It’s a bright, funny film with a very serious message.

The short film Child & Firefly has a more direct with its message. Based on the Urdu poem “Jugnu,” this Canadian film tells the story of a boy who captures a firefly and keeps her prisoner in his hat. This stern warning not to intervene with nature is wrapped in beautiful and stunning images while the lyrical poetry narrates the story.

Trees is another short film that warns of how human intervention is hurting the environment. The quick, clever film features animated trees with branches twisted to form faces. The main character calls himself a “green collar guy” and laments at how hard the rainforest has to work to produce O2 these days. 

[Picture from Trees]

While The Krill is Gone, Child & Firefly and Trees are direct messages of environmental concern, The Curious Garden and Lost & Found are subtle tales of caring for the environment. The Curious Garden is a 10 minute short film that follows a boy, Liam, who discovers a patch of greenery atop some deserted track tracks in his industrial, gray city. He nurtures the garden, which as the title suggests, becomes curious and begins to grow over the entire city. The city eventually becomes a lush, green landscape with happy residents gardening all over.

Lost & Found, a 24 minute short film, is the story of the friendship between a boy and a penguin. The penguin shows up at his doorstep one day, and though the boy helps him get back to Antarctica, their friendship eventually brings them back together. It’s a cute, sweet film that genuinely stirs the audiences’ feelings.

And last, but not least, is the music video Electric Car. The video is based on a song by the same title, performed by They Might Be Giants. The adorable video mirrors the catchy tune. We dare you to listen to it and not sing along.

So, what do you think? Are these films a good way to introduce environmental issues to young children? 

If you’d like to catch the last few days of the Environmental Film Fest, there are still plenty of films to see, such as animated film The Goat That Ate Time  (showing March 27 at the National Wildlife Center). Or catch one of the more serious documentaries, some of which  are playing at the National Academy of Sciences. And be sure to let us know how you enjoyed the festival in the comment section below!

Not in the DC area? Environmental and green film festival happen all over the country! From April 10-17th, Ithaca College will present the 2011 Finger Lakes Film Festival. In the fall, the 2011 Planet in Focus Environmental Film Fest runs from October 12-16th and the 4th Annual Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival is scheduled for November 5th.  A more comprehensive list of environmental film festival and dates can be found here .

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