Unity and CIFF Partnership

A Match Made in Documentary Film Heaven

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Unity College counts CIFF among its most productive institutional partners, and recently a match made in documentary film heaven has been made.  For years, the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) had been screening environmental documentaries. Independently, Unity College had delved into environmental filmmaking, building a multi-media lab on campus and offering documentary filmmaking courses.

CIFF and Unity College have now joined in partnership to offer a documentary film series that will reach across the Northeast with screenings at various venues. In addition to the film screenings, the partnership has led to a recent development in the curriculum for students.

Now every fall, the CM 3113 Documentary Film course taught by Professor of Humanities John Zavodny has students engaging in a crash course in documentary film literacy, spending an inspirational weekend at CIFF, and then shooting and producing their own documentary films.

Examples of student films are:
  • Ryan O’Neill’s Timber, a film on Maine’s logging heritage. O’Neill was inspired after discussions at CIFF with filmmakers Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann, directors of “Betting the Farm,” the film about the organic dairy industry in Maine.
  • Anna Mueller’s and Julia Clapp’s film on the Searsport liquid natural gas terminal controversy. 
  • Sass Linneken’s project that will document Unity’s participation in a trip to D.C. to rally for climate change progress.

Zavodny attributes the Unity College/CIFF partnership largely to the fact that CIFF’s Founder and Director Ben Fowlie is willing to use his connections on behalf of the Unity College community and his belief in what the College is trying to do: use media to communicate sustainability science. The result is that the College is able to offer amazing films at no cost to the public.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say that Ben Fowlie and CIFF have been model partners for Unity College,” said Zavodny.

The first film screened in the series was Betting the Farm, a documentary about Maine-based organic milk cooperative MOOMilk. It was shown at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the event, CIFF Founder and Director Ben Fowlie introduced Unity College President Stephen Mulkey who welcomed Unity alumni, parents, and the general public.  After the welcome, Mulkey spoke passionately about Unity’s mission, its focus on sustainability science as the “what’s next” for 21st century ecological problem solving, and the pressing need to address climate change as evidenced by the College’s action to becoming the first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels.

The second screening, Chasing Ice, took place on January 25 in Portland, Maine at the SPACE Gallery. It highlighted Unity’s commitment to the issues of environment, sustainability science and combatting climate change.

Officials from CIFF and Unity College are finalizing the complete schedule, which will be announced in full during the month of February.

Furthermore, the Unity College Alumni Office, a major sponsor in the documentary screenings, has been successful in rallying the College’s alums, meeting prospective students, and getting the word out about Unity College’s commitment to help solve climate change.

“Partnering with CIFF has allowed Unity College to express its support and commitment to the environment through cinema,” said Melik Khoury, Senior Vice President for External Affairs.  “The films screened in this series embody Unity College’s commitment to thinking locally and acting globally, viewing all enterprises through the lens of sustainability.”

Khoury sees the film series not only as the beginning of a close association with CIFF, but the affirmation of the environmental concern and commitment to sustainability seen among alumni, students, parents of Unity College students, and the College community.  Involving the general public is an added bonus.

“Nothing is more important to Unity College than its students, environmental mission, and its vibrant community of engaged alumni,” Khoury stated. “Creating opportunities like this film series that bring the entire community together while involving the general public is ideal.”

“The partnership between Unity College, the Camden International Film Festival, and Space Gallery was an excellent fit for showcasing the documentary film Chasing Ice to Portland area audiences,” said Fowlie. "We're very excited about the possibilities of providing more great nonfiction works to audiences, and the opportunities for year round collaborations that our CIFF Selects touring series allows."

For all involved, the series is a good opportunity to network, spread the word about climate change and Unity College, and to celebrate the growing genre of environmental films.

“Unity College alumni are working in the field on the pressing environmental issues of our time,” said Debora Noone, Unity College Alumni and Parent Relations Coordinator.  “Having these types of events is a good opportunity to gather Unity alumni together and bring the College community and its environmental focus to the general public.”

Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

Monday, February 11, 2013