By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — The first ever Glimmerglass Film Days will be bringing environmentally themed films to Cooperstown from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10.
Organized by Otsego 2000, a not-for-profit dedicated to preserving the environment and landscape of Otsego county, the festival seeks to both highlight the area’s beauty and stimulate the local economy as well as draw connections to environmental issues worldwide.
“The mission of the Glimmerglass film days is to show humanity’s relationship with the natural world,” said Ellen Pope, executive director of Otsego 2000.
The festival features eight feature length films, most of whom are independent. They include “Chasing Ice,” the award winning documentary on the effects of global warming in the arctic, “More than Honey,” which documents the global decline in the bee population, and “Drums Along the Mohawk,” a celebrated 1939 John Ford film set in colonial upstate New York during the American Revolution.
Additionally, there are two other events at the festival; a screening of 9 short films from the Black Maria Film Festival and “Cooper on Film: The Three Faces of Hawkeye,” a lecture by Kenyon College professor Peter Rutkoff on the cinematic representations of “The Last of the Mohicans.”
There will also be several free, non-film related events associated with the festival, including a bike ride around Otsego Lake, a hike behind The Farmer’s Museum, a lecture on Cooperstown’s adoption of integrated pest management for Doubleday Field, and a nature walk on a property administered by the Otsego Land Trust that will highlight the impact of climate change on bird migrations.
Tickets for individual screenings are $5 in advance and $6 at the door.
“We just wanted to make it affordable for everyone,” said Peggy Parsons, one of the chief organizers of the festival, when asked about the ticket prices.
Pope said that Parsons, the founder and head of the film department at the National Gallery of Art, originally approached Otsego 2000 about organizing the festival last year.
Parsons has a number of connections to Cooperstown and Otsego County.
Parsons’ mother was born in Otsego County and Parsons grew up in Utica. Parsons is a graduate of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in museum studies offered by the State University College at Oneonta. She also has a house in Cooperstown.
Parsons said she was inspired to put together the festival because she didn’t see a great deal of organized film in Cooperstown.
“When I lived here there was a great movie theatere on main street,” said Parsons, reffering to Smalley’s Theatre. “That’s gone now.”
She also noted the positive impact that film festivals can have on communities.
“It’s a wonderful sort of social event,” said Parsons. “It’s a great thing to bring families in.”
As for why she gravitated towards an environmental theme, Parsons cited the area’s natural beauty, and an awareness of environmental issues stretching back to the writings of James Fenimore Cooper.
“It just seemed the right sort of place to focus on the environment,” she said.
Parsons was chiefly responsible for selecting the films that will be shown at the festival this year.
“I thought it would be good to have films that were beautifully filmed,” said Parsons, who also cited getting movies that had had an impact at other festivals and incorporating international films as some of her other considerations.
Parsons said that every film that she asked to be a part of the festival agreed to participate.
In addition to its environmental theme, Pope noted the importance of the festival’s economic component.
“One of the main reasons we wanted to launch this is the economic impact,” said Pope, explaining that Otsego 2000 hoped it would bring more people to the area and cause increased patronage at local businesses.
Pope said that Otsego 2000 defines the environment in broad terms to include not just wildlife and wilderness, but historic buildings, local agriculture and a sustainable economy as well.
In keeping with this conception, Otsego 2000 founded the Cooperstown Farmers Market in 1991, a year round farmer’s market that they still administer.
She said that the goal Otsego 2000 had for the festival was for it to grow and be a yearly, self-sustaining event, akin to the Glimmerglass Festival.
“It’s been really heartwarming to work with the community on this,” said Pope, who said that the reception amongst local business people and residents to the festival has been good.
Otsego 2000 agreed to provide up to $11,000 of seed money for the festival this May. Pope says that the remaining money to put the festival on was raised from sponsors and that $10,000 to $11,000 was donated. She also said that some businesses donated in kind services.
The festival received no grant funding this year.
Two of the festival’s sponsors, the Otsego Land Trust and Brewery Ommegang, are sponsoring films at the festival. “Chasing Ice,” is being sponsored by the Otsego Land Trust and “Drill Baby Drill,” is being sponsored by Brewery Ommegang.
“We like to partner with the other conservation organizations in the region,” said Virginia Kennedy, executive director of the Otsego Land Trust, when asked why they had decided to be a sponsor for the film festival.
She also praised Otsego 2000’s goal of bringing more people to the area and trying to foster a sustainable economy.
“We are very much on board with that,” she said.
As for why they agreed to sponsor “Chasing Ice,” Kennedy cited the importance of the climate change issue.
“Climate change is the single biggest environmental challenge facing people today,” she said.
“We’ve done a lot of work with them (Otsego 2000) on their anti-hydrofracking stuff,” said Larry Bennett, public relations and creative service manager at Brewery Ommegang, on why the brewery had decided to get involved with the festival.
“We see ourselves as a local business,” said Bennett, who also praised the festival’s economic goals. “We see it as important to be part of the community.”
As for how the environment affects their business model, Bennet cited the importance of water to Brewery Ommegang.
“If anything happens to our water we are really up a creek.”
Pope hopes that the festival will draw 1,000 people to Cooperstown over the weekend, and says that they are on track to accomplish this. She said that one festival event, the Black Maria Short Film Festival screening at the Cooperstown Distillery, had already sold out, and that a number of others were close to selling out as well.
“I think it’s going to be successful,” said Pope. “I would just encourage people to come.”
More information on the festival can be found at www.otsego2000.org/glimmerglass-film-days.