Film Festival Puts a Local Spin on International Issues

Trish Riley is helping to bring a world stage to Gainesville. She talked to The Business Report about promoting environmental change through social awareness.

By: Caitlyn Finnegan

Since 2009, Cinema Verde Director Trish Riley has worked to showcase the outside world to Gainesville while showcasing Gainesville to the outside world. Riley’s brainchild—a six-day environmental and social film festival—is set to run Feb. 9 to 14 at Jolie in downtown Gainesville.

Riley shared her thoughts on the festival, which she hopes will encourage people to embrace the changing environment and help shape it for a better future.


How did you get the idea for Cinema Verde?

I was living in South Florida, but I grew up in the Midwest and missed the open space. I noticed as I traveled around the state that Gainesville was beautiful and had deciduous forests, urban waterways and a progressive population surrounding the university. It just seemed better than South Florida, so I moved up here. Through my work as an environmental journalist, I had the chance to visit cities like D.C., New York and Chicago, and I saw all these wonderful films being shown about the environment. I realized we needed to have these sort of movies in town, so I worked to bring them here. The first year, we partnered with the Hippodrome Theatre and it’s been happening every year since.

How is the event formatted?

The first two days will be an eco-fair to help showcase different local organizations and sustainable businesses and give them a chance to connect with the public. Each day I have a different theme, an issue that people care about, like energy, water or food and waste. I’ve collected a few films on each topic and I’m hoping to bring in at least one speaker for each issue. I’m particularly excited about director Jill Heinerth. She’s a world-renowned cave diver from High Springs and she is just wrapping up a movie that will premiere on Water Day.

How do you select the films?

I spend months going through different databases and reaching out to directors, and at the same time, other directors are reaching out to us about the opportunity to show their film. I usually go through about 100 films before I select the final lineup of about 35 films, and I’m always trolling to see what the new best things are out there. This year we have a lot of movies I’m excited about, like a really interesting collection of films documenting changes in Japan after the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

How do you increase education at the events?

For each of the films, we invite organizations that address issues involving the selected themes and allow them to table and share information about what they do. The idea is to bring together everybody who cares about a particular issue and help them to collaborate so they can strengthen the work that they are doing.

How have the previous three years shaped the format?

Failures have made us realize what we can do and what we can’t. The first year, we tried to act like other film festivals and have multiple venues. The problem was I couldn’t be everywhere at once. There were always three or four things happening at each one, and it was just confusing. But it is through such failures that we learn. This year, we are only having one location, and I think that it going to help us focus and do what we do best.

Are most of the attendees local?

I would say about 10 percent of the 3,000 people who attend are from outside the region, and that number continues to grow. The films come from all over the world, and the event has gotten publicity in Europe and other places internationally. I’m currently in talks with countries like the Philippines and Belize to bring a mini-version of the festival to other cities, so I’m hoping to start a tour of sorts in the next year.

What is your main goal?

I think this event has great potential to get the word out about issues we should all care about. A movie lasts about an hour to an hour and a half, but if I pair it with a party or musicians or food, than I have a better chance of attracting a diverse audience. It’s a chance to draw in people who may not normally attend environmental events

Why is environmental education important?

I’m a mother, and I think that it’s a parent’s responsibility to help leave the world a better place for their children to grow up. Even though the situation is pretty bad, I don’t think it’s too late to turn around. It’s just going to take the leaders of those damaging industries to own up and help fix the way they do business. Take the ozone; when we realized that it was getting damaged from certain chemicals we were using, it was quick and easy to stop using those. The main thing is everybody knows a kid, and they are the ones who are either going to benefit or suffer from our actions today.



Dates: Feb. 9 – 14

Cost: 1-Day Film Pass, $15

Half-Access VIP Pass, $50

Full-Access VIP Pass, $100


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