The Reel Earth Film Festival is a groundbreaking environmental film festival, the only one of its kind in New Zealand, which has been bringing the best of environmental films to Palmerston North since 2004. In 2015, the Reel Earth held its eleventh festival. The festival is recognised by filmmakers worldwide as a festival which seeks, selects and celebrates the best new environmental films being made. The festival is principally funded by the Palmerston North City Council, with support from PNCET.
With a focus on films exploring issues around nature and the environment, Reel Earth has also hosted many filmmakers from around the world. Visiting filmmakers have offered a great deal to the Manawatu community, like talks, interviews and forums. Some years the festival holds an awards Gala, The Reel Big Night Out, which celebrates and honours the best of the international films, national films, and children’s films.
The festival was a finalist in New Zealand’s annual Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Awards in 2011. In 2013, the festival introduced a series of public forums on water issues. In 2015, the festival hosted a whole day of environmental forums at the Palmerston North City Library, building on key themes from the films, like filmmaking, connecting children with nature and waste reduction. Each year, the festival takes films to new and interesting spaces for screenings, breaking down the usual formality of film festivals. In 2015 films were screened in an outdoor ‘pop-up’ cinema on George Street.
2015 Festival director Victoria Jakobs said of the festival, ‘ The environment is everyone’s concern – and environmental issues are both broad and mainstream. The festival films reflect this, with a focus on human interactions with or on behalf of the environment, with a number of films following personal journeys indelibly linked to wider advocacy, and activism, and even entrepreneurialism on behalf of the environment. The focus is on the inspiring stories of people near and far, and the causes they advocate on behalf of. We then try to bring these ideas and discussions to a local or regional level, and that is I believe the festival really gets exciting, as it educates and inspires a new group of people to create positive change.’
Reel Earth likes to work with community partners to increase scope and support local environmental initiatives. In 2015, they held a fundraising screening of ‘Just Eat It’, a film about food waste, for Just Zilch, a local community organisation which distributes excess food from businesses and supermarkets to people in need.
The festival was initially created (in 2004) by a group of friends who wished to encourage environmental awareness through film, using film to encourage awareness and start conversations. Their initial vision continues to inform the development of the film festival.
River Dog is a short documentary film about a man, his dogs and a river that was screened this year.