Seeking Real Sustainability at Istanbul Film Festival

Sustainable Living Collective/Promo image

Hearing an oil company that had adopted a few environmentally friendly measures described as "sustainable" was the last straw for Turkish activists Tuna Özçuhadar and Pınar Öncel.

"Everyone is talking about sustainability however they like now -- many businesses are manipulating the terminology. At a conference we attended in April, an oil company was held up as an example of sustainable business. This is not what sustainability is," Özçuhadar told TreeHugger at the opening of the Sustainable Living Film Festival in Istanbul on Friday.

Creating A Shared Vision Of Sustainability
The realization that creating a shared vision of sustainability is necessary for change drove Özçuhadar, Öncel, and the other members of the Sustainable Living Collective to rejuvenate the film festival, which they had held for the first time in 2008.

The initial festival was inspired by an online viewing of The Story of Stuff, a short web film about over-consumption. The collective translated and subtitled the film into Turkish and held a screening in Istanbul with director Annie Leonard.

Tapping The Power Of Film
"We saw that visuals have a strong potential in changing communities -- that was our first experience with that," Özçuhadar said. "We are just a few people but we can share films with a bigger audience."

Özçuhadar and Öncel, who both studied industrial design at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, hosted a second festival in Sweden, where they were enrolled in a Master's in Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability program, before bringing the event back to Istanbul this year.

Sustainable Living Collective/Promo image
The weekend screening schedule.

The free three-day festival, which runs through Sunday, features environmental favorites such as the water-wars film Blue Gold, Dirt! The Movie, and the beekeeping documentary Queen of the Sun. But it also includes screenings of movies on reconciliation in Rwanda, business practices, and spirituality.

A Solutions-Oriented Festival
"We want a diverse audience, not just the ecology-related people. The festival is about all kinds of sustainability -- environmental, economical, sociological," Özçuhadar told TreeHugger, adding that the organizers hope the festival will serve as a meeting point.

"We had some criteria for the films we chose -- we didn't want them to make people depressed. The films should have some hope in them, be showing some solutions," he added. "People should be stronger after the festival. We want to bring people together. Individuals might feel weak but together they can do something."

More On Environmental Films
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!F Film Festival: Black Sea Eccentric Fights for Coasts
Istanbul: A City Growing in 'Overdrive'
Sundance Festival's Eco-films Climb 'The Last Mountain'
Three Green-Themed Films Worth Seeing For Yourself

Tags: Documentaries | Movies | Turkey