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Cape Town’s First Eco Film Festival!

Cape Town Eco Film Festival 2014

We are proud to announce that is an official sponsor for the inaugural Cape Town Eco Film Festival this year, along with the following sponsors: Reliance Compost, JoJo Tanks, Hemporium, Ballo and Earthbound. The festival is organised by While You Were Sleeping, a non-profit organisation committed to educating South Africans on the pressing social and environmental issues that the world is facing today, through the medium of film.

The festival will cover a range of subjects such as climate change, pollution, plummeting biodiversity and diminishing natural resources, and will be hosted at the Labia Theatre, on Orange Street from 27 – 31 March 2014. The films featured at the festival have been carefully selected with the aim of providing audiences with the insights and inspiration needed to bring about positive change in society with regards to the natural environment.

The Labia

We had a chance to talk to the organisers Andrea Wilson-Späth and Dougie Dudgeon about the motivation behind The Cape Town Film Festival and their work with While You Were Sleeping.

1. What inspired you to start the Eco Film Festival?

A: The idea for a film festival that features documentaries about environmental issues has been bouncing around in my head for several years and I'm very excited that it’s actually becoming a reality. I love documentaries and I’m passionate about the environment, so it’s a nice combination.

Documentaries are much neglected by mainstream cinemas and the vast majority of the films we show will never make it onto the circuit. I think Capetonians deserve to see these films and through the festival we're giving them that opportunity. The hope is that the festival will raise consciousness about environmental problems, initiate public discussion about these issues and encourage our audiences to do something about them, both in their own lives as well as in broader society.

D: In my case, Andreas did! When I came to Cape Town 6 years ago I was delighted to find the Labia theatre, a real old style independent cinema and I soon came across Andrea’s screenings as "While You Were Sleeping". Actually I was kind of amazed because here was this organisation screening documentary films at a cinema, types of films which rarely got screened in my native London. Brilliant! So I made a point to register my delight. After that Andreas and I kept in touch and he helped me out with a couple of screenings I was involved with. Then at the end of last year, 2013, Andreas pitched in to help me out with the Cape Town Recovery film festival. Although it was a small festival, featuring films about recovery from addiction, there was a heap of work and Andreas stepped up and helped me through it. We were sitting having coffee around that time and Andreas said, "I've always wanted to do an eco film festival." That was too good an opening to miss, so I said "If that is what you want to do, let's do it!" Bingo, a project was born.

2. Who should come to the festival?

A: Anyone who cares about the state of the natural environment, but we don't just want to preach to the converted - we think that we have films that will be of interest for everyone. Many of the movies we'll feature don't just raise questions about ecological problems, they're also beautiful, inspiring and engaging. If you're not quite sure what to make of climate change, fracking, genetically modified crops and organic food, etc, we've got films to provide you with the information to make up your own mind. So, really, we want everyone to come to the festival.

D: Everyone with a pulse. No, I’m joking... sort of. Everyone with an interest in finding solutions. The famous activist Rebecca Sonlit says, you find hope in the dark. When you are sitting in a cinema engaging with a documentary, and then stay for a conversation, it is not uncommon to get caught up in the energy; the desire to find solutions. It's exciting, friendly and interesting, who would not want to come?

3. What is the importance of eco documentaries?

A: I think they're really powerful tools that give us the opportunity of learning about something in depth in a very accessible and relatively quick way. If a picture speaks a thousand words, a feature-length documentary can illuminate the story behind complex issues, clarify matters, raise questions, etc. What I really love about documentaries is that they can provide you with loads of factual information while also offering the drama, excitement, and human interest behind an issue. Eco documentaries can inform, answer questions, provide detailed analysis of complicated issues in an accessible way, create awareness, and inspire people to make a difference.

D: Film is a dynamic and often dramatic way to combine images, sound and dialogue which can engage in ways the written word or the small screen can’t. For me it is also important that so many of the films we screen point out problems, but suggest solutions and almost always start building online presence and campaigns that prolong the effectiveness of the films statement.

4. Do you hope to inspire local film makers to make documentaries of this nature?

A: Yes, absolutely. This year's festival includes mostly international feature-length films along with a number of South African short films. We'd love to inspire local film makers to make documentaries, especially ones of the longer form, that provide a uniquely South African perspective on some of the environmental challenges we're faced with. We'd love for the festival to become a platform on which South African filmmakers can showcase their environmental films.

D: This year the only local material we have are shorts, and a one hour film, “Op Theefontein”.  “Op Theefontein” is an Afrikaans language film and we are thrilled to be including it.  We plan for this to be an annual event, and we hope in future that more local films will be made and that we can screen them.

5. Are there any international films festivals/organisations that have similar ambitions to what you’re doing and do you partner with them?

A: We haven't formally partnered with any international film festivals at this point. There are a growing number of festivals around the world that have a similar mission to ours and we're inspired by the work they do. I think in future it would be great to be able to collaborate with some of these film festivals. What we are already doing is teaming up with local environmental organisations like Project 90 by 2030, Green pop, Bicycle Cape Town, the Treasure Karoo Action Group etc. to add expertise and rich content to the festival in order to enrich the experience for our audiences and to offer a platform for groups and individuals to interact and network during the festival.

D: There are two that I love personally, one is the Eco-focus Film Festival in Athens, Georgia (home of REM and many, many cool creatives), the town has a vibe that rubs off on this festival and they do really well at tying together their local community. The other is the Transitions Film Festival in Australia, Melbourne actually. These guys have great art and design and very cool promotion and marketing as well as fantastic films (many of which we’ve got too).

6. What other projects are you currently working on with While You Were Sleeping?

A: We've got loads of ideas for this year, involving a range of different themes, but all to do with great documentary films. People can keep informed about what we're up to by visiting our website, or by checking us out on Facebook and Twitter. One thing that will definitely happen during the second half of the year is the Cape Town Recovery Film Festival, which deals with recovery in the broadest sense of the word - recovery from trauma, abuse, addiction, etc.

D: We recently screened Velcro Ripper’s “Occupy Love” as an alternative Valentine’s Day outing in conjunction with Michael Elion’s “Secret Love Project”, an official City of Design 2014 project. We are also partnering with a Cape Town based outpatient addiction treatment centre to give the star of the recovery film festival, “The Anonymous People”, its second ever South African screening.

Several other one off screening projects are being planned, as well as some exciting collaborations, but you'll have to keep watching the While You Were Sleeping Facebook page and website to find out more.

Theatre seats

The team is very excited to be a part of While You Were Sleeping’s eco film festival initiative and we hope to see all of our readers at the festival - bring your friends and family! The festival is also a great opportunity for school and other organisational fieldtrips.

Stay in tune with the Cape Town Film Festival official website, Twitter or Facebook page for updates on the festival. The full programme for the Cape Town Eco Film Festival will be released next week and we will be previewing the movies featured at the event as of then.

One thought on “Cape Town’s First Eco Film Festival!”

  • Karen Zunckel

    Hello Friends

    I thought you may be interested to hear of synergies between us. We're in the KZN Midlands and are planning our first 'Queen of the Sun' and 'Seeds of Sovereignty' Film Festival 21-23 March 2014 in Howick.

    The purpose of the proposed event is to share with a broader audience in the uMngeni area several interesting, exciting and challenging films that show us the way to a more positive future.

    The festival will include locally made films as a way of promoting young filmmakers, guest speaker/s, and awards in recognition of individuals and organisations who are promoting sustainable living. There will also be a seed ceremony involving an exchange of heirloom/traditional seeds to symbolise the important role seeds play in our lives.

    We also thought it would be good to include a visit to a functioning home garden. We are hoping to get some funding to translate Seeds of Sovereignty into Zulu. It would be wonderful to screen this important film in English and also in Zulu.

    The intention is to keep this initial film festival small and manageable with the vision of growing it organically into an annual event.

    It would be grat to keep in touch and perhaps share lessons learned following our events.

    Best wishes,
    Karen Zunckel

    Founder | Sustainability Consultant
    VERDANT LIFE | KZN Midlands Sustainability Forum
    Hilton | KwaZulu-Natal | South Africa
    Tel: +27 33 343 1739 | cell: +27 83 235 8628 | Fax to Email +27 86 517 5582
    e-mail: | web: | | @VerdantLifeKZN | Google+

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