The International Wildlife Film Festival kicks off its 41st year on April 14 with a wildlife costume parade in downtown Missoula, followed by nine days of film screenings, workshops and live events.
New this year is a series called "Wild Sounds," featuring talks from audio storytellers and behind-the-scenes glimpses at five wildlife-related podcasts.
MTPR's Olga Kreimer visited the IWFF headquarters at Missoula's Roxy Theater to chat with festival producer Jeri Rafter.
Olga Kreimer: You have podcasts on this year's program; what are podcasts doing in a film festival?
Jeri Rafter: Well, IWFF has always had a lot of character, it has a lot of personality. we've explored everything from art to photography. It's more a celebration of how we communicate about wildlife. Our founder Chuck Jonkel's whole mission in life was to educate people, and to let people know how we should ethically treat wildlife when we are filming them or recording them or just talking about them. So I see these podcasts as another way to educate people about different species and different issues within the conservation and the wildlife world, and just a fun new way to talk about animals.
OK: You have talked before about how you're interested in entering into that conversation more, not being just a film festival but also being part of the conversation about we talk about science. What are some of the specific ways you might be branching out, and how are people getting that kind of information now?
JR: I am really focused on this burgeoning interest in science communication, the whole “hashtag scicomm” movement. I think it's about bringing science to the public, and I think it's about breaking down the walls between research that happens in a lab and what people take in on a daily level, and I also think politically, we're polarized. And science doesn't need to be polarized! It's research, and we should be figuring out ways to listen to each other.
OK: It sounds like you guys are getting creative and thinking really broadly about different ways to engage people. What are these different ways to get people interested, and to get people who might not already be interested in coming out for a festival like this?
JR: I definitely have been thinking about broadening our audience, because IWFF has a reputation, we have a core group of people who come out every year, and one of the biggest things I wanted to change about this year is opening our doors to people of different political views. In the environmental world, we tend to preach to the choir. And in Missoula, we tend to have the same friends and we talk to very like-minded people. So through a series of dialogues, we have invited some people “from the other side” to come to the table and talk about some conservation issues, not necessarily talking directly about the issue, but about how we talk about the issue.
OK: What is the one thing that people shouldn't miss at this festival?
JR: Well, there's one thing that's very fun this year for the festival: we're closing it out with a fashion show. It's called "Dressed Not to Kill: A Sustainable Fashion Event," showcasing a bunch of local sustainable designers, people like DonkeyGirl Design and Joanna Smetanka's Moonrush Designs and Gemini Swimwear. It's going to be really fun. It's going to be here at the Roxy, 20 models from the community paired up with those local designers, and then each look is also paired up with a wildlife group, and we're going to have a silent auction. The designers are donating the looks, and half of the proceeds will go back to the designer, and half the proceeds will go to the nonprofits. So, spreading the love, but going out with a bang: that should be really fun.
International Wildlife Film Festival events begin on Saturday and continue through next Sunday. See the schedule and more information on the IWFF website.