Tag Archives: women in film

On Tour: Germantown, MD

28 Nov

November 20, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Germantown, MD

“Certainly anyone can spend time outside, but joining a group like the Montgomery County Parks and Recreations offers opportunities for community connections, educational activities, and nature play.”

On my ride from West Virginia to Maryland, I couldn’t resist but to drive through one of my favorite U.S. parks – Shenandoah National Forest. I took a little hike up a mountain that got me dodging rocks for a little bouldering experience. How fun!

Germantown was my new On Screen/In Person destination where I was to present Love Thy Nature at BlackRock Center, a vibrant arts organization. Our host, Krista Bradley, planned a pre-screening tour of the beautiful (and very artistic!) new park adjacent to BlackRock, where naturalist Jenn Scully from the Montgomery County Parks and Recreations took a small group of us on a discovery tour of local flora and fauna.

Even though the wind was blowing hard and the air was quite chilly, that didn’t stop our group from having the best of times! I was delighted to get to know Krista and her rich background supporting the arts, as well as Jason, who brings his love of nature (he studied global ecology) to his work as an education program manager at BlackRock. Ultimately, Jenn got us all giggling with natural stories and park discoveries. She pulled out from her bag remains of some local critters— rattle snakes’ skins and the fur of a red fox!

The screening ignited curiosity among audience members who wanted to know the best ways to be active locally and how to get kids involved in nature activities. Many of the questions went to Jenn who offered details on the many ways the community can get involved and join nature-connecting and nature-restoring activities.

I’m always excited to see when a screening of Love Thy Nature provides an opportunity for audience members to connect with their local groups for outdoor fun. Certainly anyone can spend time outside, but joining a group like the Montgomery County Parks and Recreations offers opportunities for community connections, educational activities, and nature play.

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Special thanks to Krista, Jason, and Jenn for hosting Love Thy Nature at your beautiful center, sharing your fun and artsy park, and joining forces to inspire Germantown folks to get outdoors!

Sylvie

Post provided by touring On Screen/In Person filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

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On Tour: Lewisburg, WV

28 Nov

November 17, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Lewisburg, WV

“Water is such a critical element to support our fragile lives and yet we take it for granted…”

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My trip from Waynesboro, VA to Lewisburg, WV was a peaceful ride through golden hills and when I arrived at my hotel room, I opened the curtains only to discover it was facing a vast cemetery – setting me in a special kind of tone. As a nature gal, the first thing I do every morning (or when I arrive at a new hotel room) is to open my window, take a whiff of fresh air and look out to trees, the sky and a horizon – if I’m lucky enough to be in a room with a view to infinity.

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In this case, it also offered me a view to the beyond. All those tombstones made me wonder: who were these souls, whether their lives were fulfilling, and who grieves their loss? According to my mother, my dad avoided cemeteries like the plague. And yet, here I stand in my early 50s thinking of him and all the other humans who left our plane to who knows where. To me, cemeteries evoke a profound sense of gratitude for inhabiting a healthy body and having this human experience in this oh, so very precious, yet short lifespan Mother Nature has given us.

And how amazing that I get to do this work of inspiring others to cherish their relationship with Nature and each other in the hopes that they too will find meaning and purpose in their lives.

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When I arrived at Carnegie Hall, my host Lynn introduced me to Autumn, the program director at West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Autumn and I shared the stage during Q&A and discussed the extraordinary importance of water— water for swimming, fishing, bathing, drinking, and overall healthy living. Water is such a critical element to support our fragile lives and yet we take it for granted despite all its current threats from drought and pollution to privatization by companies eager to contain it within plastic bottles for profits.

But we can resist. While I’m offered bottled water in many places I go, more often than not, I refuse and fill up my reusable water container with fountain, tap, or -if I’m lucky enough – spring water from some local source.

We ended our conversation with the audience at Carnegie Hall offering an homage to rivers and streams, while encouraging audience members to be involved in their local rivers coalition so that this beautiful little community in West Virginia remains healthy, vibrant, and yes, full of life.

Wishing you water,

Sylvie

Post provided by touring On Screen/In Person filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Brookville, NY

16 Nov

November 10, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Brookville, NY

The gift of a small audience is the rare intimacy that happens between presenter and participants. It often becomes a deeper and more authentic conversation…

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My visit to Long Island University (LIU) was delightful and engaging. Dr. Scott Carlin, Associate Professor of Geography, invited me to a pre-screening reception with sustainability-focused students and faculty. The group is clearly committed and excited to strengthen environmental awareness within the university. Erica and Chris are new students starting a campus sustainability group and have a number of great ideas – from starting an organic farm, educating other students on eco-conscious living, and getting people to enjoy the outdoors. These young people are creating change from the ground up!

Dr. Carlin also shared great news from the top down: LIU’s top executives just decided to launch a university degree on sustainability studies!

The state of the art Tilles Center for the Performing Arts played Love Thy Nature in its full splendor. And while it’s a massive auditorium, only about 20 viewers came to our screening event. So, during Q&A, an audience member asked, “How is it possible that such a beautiful and important film only attracted a few of us?”

Frankly, I too was surprised that we had such a timid turnout at a university in New York. After all, my outreach team for the film sent out blast emails to 17 groups in the area and LIU organizers themselves also did their own outreach. And while it’s impossible to know why we didn’t have more people at the screening last night, I was told there was another event on campus; plus, we can’t ignore that many in our country are still very focused on post-election politics – further ignited by the dramatic images of protests and riots in major cities over Donald Trump having been elected president 3 days ago.

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Whatever the reasons, I learned to never discount the impact Love Thy Nature might have on a small group of people. The gift of a small audience is the rare intimacy that happens between presenter and participants. It often becomes a deeper and more authentic conversation (viewers lose their fear of speaking in small groups) and I’m able to perceive what folks need the most.  I feel deeply honored to do this work, as I get to assist people in turning their despair into inspiration, cynicism into insight, and anger into conscious activism, for a brighter nature-filled-and-connected future.

I’m confident that our screening event might have ignited a fire in that small but engaged LIU group last night. May it have further fueled Erica and Chris’ determination to make a sustainability movement blossom in campus and may it have offered Dr. Carlin and his colleagues more ideas for the new LIU sustainability program. And I trust that other seeds we planted will somehow sprout in beautiful ways even if we might never know how they manifested.
So I’m grateful for the opportunity to have come to New York to connect with such a great group of passionate visionaries. I look forward to crossing paths with them again.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

16 Nov

November 13, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Wilmington, DE

“A man in his 50s said that for 20 years his adult son had been struggling with trauma and later addiction. But when his son got a job planting gardens for a landscaping business, the experience of touching soil, caring for plants, and just being outdoors every day was “more healing than any other therapy.”

My ride from Long Island to Delaware had me cross a number of tunnels and bridges, making it a visually appealing trip. I had never been to Wilmington, so once I got in town I decided to leave my rental car in the hotel garage and walk downtown to the screening location – The Queen Theater. Most of downtown Wilmington is historic and buildings are filled with red brick charm and character.

Our hosts from Light Up the Queen Foundation – Tina Betz and Judy Hickman – did a fabulous job at organizing the event. They offered a reception and invited leaders of local nature organizations to join me in the post screening panel discussion, in a room with an audience of nearly 50 people.

The panelists included Stephanie Herron (Delaware Sierra Club), Richard Jones Jr. (Delaware Nature Conservancy), and Helen Fischel (Delaware Nature Society). After they offered a brief description of their organizations, we encouraged audience members to get involved with their groups – both by enjoying their outdoor programs and participating in their nature protection initiatives. We also focused our attention on kids since, in our digital age, parents and educators have to play a critical role at encouraging children to spend time outdoors and experience nature with their peers.

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In my conversations with individuals after the screening, I’m always touched to hear people express their gratitude for the film and share their personal stories about the power of nature. A man in his 50s said that for 20 years his adult son had been struggling with trauma and later addiction. But when his son got a job planting gardens for a landscaping business, the experience of touching soil, caring for plants, and just being outdoors every day was “more healing than any other therapy.” Garden planting transformed his son, who now looks forward to his work every day.

At the end of the event, Tina and I had a great conversation over a glass of wine about business and politics.  The sun had already set when I walked back to my hotel room, carrying a left over platter of fruit Tina was kind enough to offer me. Downtown Wilmington was now quiet and chilly – but I felt warm hearted after sharing Love Thy Nature and meeting such a great group of people in this history town in Delaware.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

16 Nov

November 9, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | West Long Branch, NJ

Let’s heal together, rejoice, and roll up our sleeves. We got a lot of work to do.

November 9th, 2016. Like most Americans, I had little sleep that night and woke up to what felt like a living nightmare. The political candidate that was running a bullying campaign based on disrespect for immigrants, racial division, misogyny, and a number of other positions that were an assault to our most basic American goodness and values won the electoral vote – becoming the 45th president of our beloved country.

Like millions of people, I was in shock and all I wanted to do was to crawl in a fetal position or cry on the phone with loved ones. But instead, I had to fulfill my obligation to pack, hit the road, and prepare for my next Love Thy Nature screening (at Monmouth University) with a mission to inspire yet another audience.

Inspire an audience??!! That seemed like an impossible task, when I couldn’t stop myself from weeping the entire road trip from Blue Bell, PA to Eatontown, NJ! “One step at a time, Sylvie,” I kept telling myself.

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The weather prediction had been sunshine and yet, it was pouring rain – a perfect symbolism to what happened with the election.  When I arrived at Monmouth, the Center of the Arts director, Vaune Peck, came to greet me and I was comforted by the realization that the school team were in a similar mental state as my own. So, we talked politics before the event and managed to giggle over a social media image where our president-elect (known for bragging about sexually assaulting women) was groping the statue of liberty.

I didn’t have a high expectation in terms of turn out, thinking our core audience would be depressed and unwilling to leave the comfort of their homes. Let’s face it, this is a film about love of nature, self and each other; ecological awareness; and being the change we wish to see in the world – ideals that were defeated at the ballot.

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To my surprise, more than 50 people attended our Love Thy Nature event, even as a sense of gloom in the room was very palpable.  Some had mentioned that they came to the screening because they couldn’t stand being home that night… it was too painful. So, after the screening, I felt I had to validate people’s feelings before any Q&A about the film. I encouraged our audience members to take time to grieve, feel their emotions, connect with loved ones, and connect with Mother Nature as she’s a potent healing balm.

I also reminded them that human evolution is not a straight line. We take steps forward but we also take steps back. But as Martin Luther King wisely said, “The long arc of history bends towards justice.” If we think about it, it was less than one hundred years ago that women didn’t even have the right to vote, less than 200 years ago that people were enslaved just because of the color of their skin, and 3,000 years ago the Greek political elite was fighting the advent of democracy, as individual freedom seemed too chaotic. So, in the big picture, love always wins.

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But we can’t deny it: if what was promised on the campaign trail comes to fruition, the next few years will be grim – even dangerous – for America and the world in many ways. But if we take the time to grieve now and nourish our spirit through connection with each other and nature, we will find the strength to organize and fight for this precious country and planet of ours. Let’s heal together, rejoice, and roll up our sleeves. We got a lot of work to do.

Wishing you nature.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Blue Bell, PA

16 Nov

November 8, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Blue Bell, PA

I felt immediately transported, as an orchestra was playing music of transcendental beauty and magnificence! And that was just the beginning…

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It was Tuesday, Nov 8th 2016 – election day. I woke up in a hotel bed in Bloomsburg, PA, bundled up like an Inuit from Northern Canada. It’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit and the heater in my hotel room wasn’t working – so I was freezing!

Still, I pushed myself to do my morning meditation even if all I could be mindful about was my shivering body. It didn’t take long until I jumped out of my sitting posture to go chase a warm breakfast at the hotel, while envisioning that perfect day with an inspired audience for my Love Thy Nature screening event and a historic night in which the first female would be elected president of the United States – and finally shatter the hardest of all glass ceilings into millions of pieces.

My drive to East Norriton was lovely. The weather turned out to be beautiful, the air was crisp and trees were lined up along the road with their autumn leaves punctuating the landscape with colors.

When I got to Montgomery County Community College (MC3), the Senior Director of Cultural Affairs, Brent Woods, offered me a warm welcome and a tour of their arts building, including the large room where the film was to be projected. When I entered that auditorium, I felt immediately transported, as an orchestra was playing music of transcendental beauty and magnificence! And that was just the beginning…

Brent introduced me to Senior Producer Matt Porter. By the way, both men are delightful beings in their professionalism, kindness, and expressions of joy. Matt continued to show me around. We went to visit rooms with state of the arts camera, video and editing equipment for students to use for their media projects. The college also had sculptures from local artists on display on their walls. I was really impressed with MC3’s facilities, both for their abundance of resources for students and their commitment to promoting the arts in all its forms – including film!

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The Love Thy Nature screening went really well, the setting was intimate, and audience members were engaged in the Q&A with questions as varied as favorite scenes to shoot to the healing power of nature. At the end, a viewer shared her anxiety over the presidential election and said she planned to watch the results in the company of a bottle of wine. I didn’t feel as concerned as she was at that moment. But at early morning hours when the results of the election were clear – forget the glass ceiling – my whole world felt like it broke down into millions of pieces, and turned into ice. Hate trumped love. Can this be real?

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Bloomsburg, PA

9 Nov

November 7, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Bloomsburg, PA

All we need to do is keep the vision of a future in which we work in the way our common mother (Mother Nature) intended us…

I started my Bloomsburg screening experience on the wrong foot. I arrived late! For a perfectionist like me – I was raised by a Jewish mother, a Catholic father and went to a strict and rigid French school (my middle name is Guilt), even 5 mins late to a tech test for the film can cause me nausea. Literally! Or could it be that being the eve of the most important election of a lifetime is what’s turning me inside out?

We were still setting the volume for the film when the audience started pouring in – see, they were on time!! – I figured I’d discreetly do some breathing exercises on the corner so no one will say the filmmaker looked nauseated right at her intro. That would look bad for a “Hollywood” gal like me. I broke my own record and had the shortest intro ever, but at least I escaped throwing up in front of 50 people.

Being also obsessive compulsive, I watched the first half of my own film so I can see it for the 893rd time – just in case I might forget the end of that one line I might want to share (again) with the audience. Then I went off to do one of my favorite things – shoot! (the “loving” way of course!).  Ahhhh…. The night is young and beauty is all around. The building itself is impressive and historic.   Flowers were striking poses on the walkway, and as if on cue, this cute couple walks right when I snap a pic.

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So, now that I got my nature fix, I walk back in the auditorium right on time for Q&A, pumped myself up with woo-woo self esteem “inner talk” (that stuff works!) and yes, the nausea is gone. And after a warm applause (ohhhh, that’s beyond therapy – it’s more like opium!) I ask the audience “questions…?  Comments…? Complaints…? Funny how that goes, with “complaints?” I got arms spring up like a magic box. Really???

Some questions I get repeatedly at many screenings, like “how many countries did you film at,” or did you really get in the same room as Liam Neeson?” but the discussions that got us all entranced (or at least I was!) were about biomimicry and the dawning of a technological, social, economic, and yes, even political revolution – all inspired by nature!

We explored what would our world would look like if we were to be willing to learn from our “elders” – the species that came before us – and applied their genius, “technologies” and collaborative methods to our own technologies, designs, and systems.

While the rigid French nanny was sitting on my shoulder – saying “don’t you dare talk politics” – I thought… c’mon… it is THE night before the most important election of a lifetime – no, not mine, the lifetime of this country!

I negotiated with her – hey, there is no need to talk who, what, which party affiliation, none of that stuff. All we need to do is keep the vision of a future in which we work in the way our common mother (Mother Nature) intended us to – in connection and collaboration with each other, fulfilling the highest potential of our species (one of extraordinary wisdom, intelligence, self reflection, passion, and compassion) and ensuring that we too – like all other living beings – make sure to protect the future of our young and their off springs.

Forget politics. It’s about life, love, wonder.

Now, have you voted yet??

Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab

 

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