The second Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival (ECFF 2023) took place on the 18th of April 2023 at the National Museum of Scotland as one of the programmed activities with the Edinburgh Science Festival. ECoS is thankful to both organisations for another excellent hosting and support with the screening of films.
The theme of this year’s ECFF was “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” and its main aim was to seek public engagement with One Health, an integrated approach to balance and optimise people’s health, domestic and wild animals, plants, and ecosystems in a sustainable way.
Awareness of One Health, and the interconnectedness of people’s health with the health of the natural environment, across all sectors of our societies, is vital if we are to overcome the challenges we face with the current twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
In this year’s edition of ECFF, we particularly wanted to showcase films that highlighted the importance of protecting and maintaining biodiversity to ensure the health and well-being of people across our planet in a broad sense, including physical well-being, mental health, climate security or economic stability.
The film festival followed the same format as last year, with open participation and submission of short films (up to 5 minutes), from amateurs and established filmmakers at any stage of their careers and from any country, to three categories: Animation, Terrestrial and Aquatic. This year’s ECFF was again directed by Simon Dures to which ECoS thanks all his efforts to make the festival successful. ECFF 2023 organisation and film awards were financially supported by the four ECoS partners (The University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland, NatureScot, and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) and a generous contribution by SEFARI Gateway.
Over 70 films, from 19 countries, were received this year of which 12 were shortlisted by the ECoS board and associates and judged by a diverse, experienced, and independent panel. Similar to last year, we are grateful for the collaboration of an incredible judging panel covering expertise in climate change research, natural biodiversity conservation, veterinary medicine, and filmmaking.
The judging panel this year included Christine Middlemiss – Scottish veterinary surgeon and the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka – Founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health, leadership council of Women for the Environment in Africa, and the winner of the 2022 Edinburgh Medal for her work on Planetary Health, Julian Hector – a British television and radio producer and the former head of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Nicola Brown – a cross-platform impact producer specialising in natural history and conservation for shows such as Our Frozen Planet, and Our Blue Planet, and Mat Williams, Scotland’s Chief Scientific Adviser for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and Chair of Global Change Ecology at The University of Edinburgh.
The screening of the shortlisted films and awarding of prizes on the 10th of April started with a welcome and introduction to ECFF by Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences at the National Museum of Scotland, and Simon Dures, Director of the film festival, followed by the screening of an ECoS and SEFARI Gateway-commissioned short film explaining What is One Health?.
The film, featuring Anna Meredith, Professor of Zoological and Conservation Medicine at The University of Edinburgh and ECoS Chair, is freely available to watch and distribute.
The shortlisted films were screened in three sets, the first introduced by Sílvia Pérez-Espona, Lecturer in Conservation Genetics at The University of Edinburgh and ECoS Coordinator, which also introduced to the audience ECoS and its vision.
The second set of films was introduced by Anna Meredith, and the third set was introduced by Charles Bestwick, Principal Investigator at the Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, and Director of SEFARI Gateway.
The ceremony proceeded with the films’ awards for each category and an overall winner, with prizes handed by Michelle Wilson-Chalmers (Research and Communications Manager, SEFARI Gateway), Charles Bestwick and Christine Middlemiss.
The winner of the ‘Animation’ category was Autosaurus Rex by Marcel Barelli (Switzerland). A film with clever and engaging storytelling and highly effective animation technique to communicate the conservation message.
The winner of the ‘Terrestrial’ category was Skin of the Earth by Ikram Ahmed (United Kingdom). An inspirational, personal, reflective film portraying a community of women in London highlighting the importance and restorative power of soils.
The winner of the ‘Aquatic’ category was If You Give a Beach a Bottle by Max Romey (United States). This compelling film highlights the importance of initiatives aiming at removing plastic from beaches using beautiful artwork throughout the film.
The Overall Winner of ECFF 2023 was Autosaurus Rex by Marcel Barelli. An extra prize was given this year to ‘On the Edge’ for their series of films called Animals in Therapy. Although not included in the shortlisted films, some of their films were screened during the film festival as a recognition of their efforts to increase awareness about eco-anxiety and mental health.
More details about the films screened can be found on the Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival’s website.
ECoS and the other organisers and sponsors thank all the filmmakers that submitted films to ECFF 2023.