Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) celebrates 25 years. (Photo provided by Patty Zimmermann)

ITHACA, N.Y.—This year, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) is celebrating 25 years of dedication to opening discussions of sustainability from cultural, ecological, economic, social, political and technological perspectives. This year’s theme, Entanglements, will explore different environments, ideas, imaginaries, places, practices, registers and species and how they twist together, entangling.

Initially beginning in 1997 at Cornell University, the festival has roots at both colleges and ultimately works to serve the entire Ithaca community, partnering with Cinemapolis for screenings and becoming a recognized regional film festival for all of upstate New York.

Instead of fully canceling the 2020 festival, co-director Patricia Zimmermann had moved it online in light of COVID-19. The festival also occurred virtually in 2021, and this will be the first year back offering in-person events as well. The hybrid format is something that both Zimmermann and Brett Bossard, executive director at Cinemapolis, are excited about and see as an opportunity to increase accessibility for the festival.

“The virtual platform has made us think more in a more focused manner about accessibility, and not just accessibility for people that have, you know, specific disabilities or impairments when it comes to visual or, or specifically hearing impaired,” Bossard said, explaining the ability to provide closed captions and visual aids, combat barrier issues like transportation and allow more widespread viewership asynchronously.

Zimmermann shared similar thoughts. “Most festivals right now are the biggest decision is not to go back and be fully embodied,” she said.

After beginning the virtual offering, Zimmermann said that the FLEFF audience quadrupled, with attendants coming from 40 countries — “We have people from all over the world, someone’s got a new book and they’re in the U.K. and we can have someone here interview, this is extraordinary.”

The Entanglements program will include 12 interactive talkbacks on Zoom, which are open to the public for the duration of the festival. In attendance will be filmmakers, activists, musicians, journalists and global scholars, with more than a dozen scheduled speakers

“One of the great things about FLEFF is that every year, there’s some sort of live event, whether it’s a theatrical performance that is accompanied by film, or often there’s a silent film with live music accompaniment,” Bossard said.

The festival has a wide array of partnering organizations including the Park Center for Independent Media, Conversations Across Screen Cultures, Art Mattan Films, EngageMedia Indonesia, the Ithaca City of Asylum, Opera Ithaca, Scribe Video Philadelphia and UniFrance, to list a few.

As one of the oldest environmental film festivals, Zimmermann says, showcasing international new media, art exhibitions, concerts, climate issues and faculty research, artistic abilities and talent through conventions, panels, roundtables and masterclasses have been part of the festival package.

Aside from Zimmermann, there are more than 40 team members behind the scenes of the event, including producers Ann Michel and Phil Wilde.

FLEFF’s 2022 program begins March 21 and ends April 10 and will feature more than 65 evens with hybrid offerings both virtually and in person.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is the digital editor/reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Joining in November 2021, she has covered a wide range of topics related to local news. She can be reached at,...