no. 28: DCEFF in Review

Sydney Bollinger reflects on her experience at DCEFF and discusses some of her favorite films from the festival. She also previews Earth Month at Thursday Matinee.

no. 28: DCEFF in Review
Scenes from the Glittering World (2021)

by Sydney Bollinger

Over the past week I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF), the largest environmental film festival in the world. This year’s festival had an excellent selection of films with something perfect for everyone: coming-of-age stories that pull at the heartstrings, feminist adventure stories, climate action inspiration, and more.

The films I watched have reinvigorated me for climate action. As an environmental activist, hearing stories and seeing what other people are accomplishing in their areas reinvigorates me to keep doing this work. The diverse set of narratives DCEFF featured paint a larger picture of the environmental and climate movement across the world.

Even though the festival is over, I still suggest seeking out the films DCEFF featured this year. The festival has a wonderful archive of past festival films and where to watch them.

If you want to know what I recommend, I’ve listed my Top 5 from this year’s DCEFF below.

My Top 5 Films from DCEFF 30

Beans (2020)

Directed by Tracey Deer
Stream for free on Hulu or Hoopla

Beans is easily my favorite film from this year’s festival. Deer’s script and direction for this story about a preteen Mohawk girl coming-of-age is endlessly moving. Kiawentiio, who plays the titular character, delivers a breathtaking performance that perfectly balances the awkward space between childhood and adolescence.

This is — and I don’t say this lightly — one of the best coming-of-age films of the last ten years.

[DCEFF] ‘Beans’ (2020) Film Review
Sydney Bollinger reviews Beans, a coming-of-age film written and directed by Tracey Deer. The film follows Mohawk preteen Beans during the summer of the Oka Crisis.

Devil Put the Coal in Ground (2021)

Directed by Lucas Sabean and Peter Hutchison

Directors Sabean and Hutchison bring the oral storytelling traditions of West Virginia to life in Devil Put the Coal in the Ground, a documentary about the coal industry’s effects on West Virginians. In highlighting a wide array of individual voices, the documentary presents a full picture of the crisis in the state. The issue of coal and transitioning to fully renewable energy is complicated — and this film dives into why we don’t just need a transition, we need a just transition.

[DCEFF] ‘Devil Put the Coal in the Ground’ (2021) Film Review
Sydney Bollinger reviews Devil Put the Coal in the Ground (2021), a film about a West Virginia coal mining town and the coal industry’s effects on the community.

Breaking Trail (2021)

Directed by Jesse Roesler

Emily Ford is the first woman and first person of color to complete Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail in the winter. Short documentary Breaking Trail follows her journey on the trail while discussing the history of people of color in outdoor spaces and the social politics of America during Ford’s hike. This film may be short, but the stunning cinematography coupled with Ford’s unmatched charisma make it an epic adventure.

‘Breaking Trail’ (2021) Film Review
Sydney Bollinger reviews Breaking Trail (2021), part of DCEFF30. The film follows the journey of Emily Ford, the first woman and first person of color to complete Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail in the winter.

Scenes from the Glittering World (2021)

Directed by Jared Jenkins

Scenes from the Glittering World follows the lives of three Navajo teenagers who navigate growing up and their cultural identities. Not only is this film absolutely beautiful, but it also is an in-depth look at the lives of teenagers on the reservation. Each of the teen subjects is charming in their own way, but Ilii Neang is the documentary’s standout.

The film is not yet available to stream, but once it is, I highly recommend watching it.

Humanity Has Not Yet Failed

Directed by Norma V. Toraya and  Jared P. Scott

Everyone knows Greta Thunberg. The 19-year-old Swedish activist has been at the forefront of climate action since 2018. In Humanity Has Not Yet Failed, Toraya and Scott take one of Thunberg’s impassioned speeches about the scam of “business as usual” and empty promises of world leaders and politicians and make it even more damning through animation.

The film is available for free and I implore everyone to watch — it’s under 8 minutes long and may be just what you need to move forward with climate action.

Moving Forward: Thursday Matinee & Environmental Filmmaking

Climate change needs to be a front page topic and at Thursday Matinee, we’re committed to exploring the many connections between environmentalism and film.

Moving forward, we are committed to becoming an outlet for people to seek out criticism and coverage on environmentally-themed films, sustainable filmmaking, and climate activism on screen. While we will not become a fully climate-focused outlet, we do plan to incorporate at least one environmentally-themed newsletter per month.

Additionally, to launch our commitment to climate change in film, we are celebrating Earth Month with a full slate of climate-focused newsletters.

April 7: The Relationship Between Climate Change and Dystopian Films
April 14: Jessica Oreck’s One Man Dies a Million Times and the Future of Climate Change Narratives on Screen
April 21: Behind the Scenes — Sustainable Film & TV Production
April 28: Bong Joon-Ho’s Environmental Repertoire

If you are interested in getting involved with Thursday Matinee’s Earth Month celebration, email Sydney at with your interests and a writing sample.