PHEFF: Interview with Fisher Stevens, director of Before the Flood

In conjunction with Earth day, this week brought the inaugural Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival, a showcase of films with the common thematic thread of saving the planet. Some focal points include plastics, deforestation, adorable monkeys, water conservation, renewable energy, etc., all curated to serve as a reminder (sometimes wonderful, sometimes justifiably angry) that our Earth is beautiful and worth saving.

Each day of the three-day festival featured blocks of programming in which multiple shorts were paired with feature-length presentations. The talent ranged from local filmmakers all the way up to James Cameron, whose ecologically-minded Avatar served as the closing night film.

As with any film festival it’s the opening night events which get all the press, and PHEFF is no different, kicking off the weekend with Before the Flood, a cautionary documentary about climate change, directed by Fisher Stevens and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Stevens, who won a Best Documentary Oscar in 2010 with dolphin-slaughter documentary, The Cove, was in attendance to present his new film and to accept PHEFF’s first Environmental Advocacy Award.

Mr. Stevens granted his time to Cinedelphia to answer some questions about his film.

Cinedelphia: What is the ultimate goal with putting out a movie like Before the Flood?

Stevens: Waking people up and making people who never thought about climate change think about it. You know it’s sad what has happening in our country right now. There’s a lot of progress in other countries, but we’re going backwards, so I’m hoping people will see this and get angry and get pissed and write some letters and stop eating so much meat ; look at how much palm oil is in what they’re eating — things like that as well.

Cinedelphia: Saving the world is a huge undertaking. What can the everyman do to help out?

Stevens: You can change your diet. You can also write your congressmen and senators and tell the EPA not to gut all these environmental regulations that the Obama administration started running. Tell your congressmen and senators that we want to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement. In your own way, in your own part, just start thinking more environmentally conscious. I know we all have to pay our rent and think about important stuff like our kids’ futures and education, but this is part of thinking about that.

Cinedelphia: Is there any environmental issue that perhaps doesn’t get as much press as climate change which is equally close to your heart?

Stevens: There’s a million of them. I think the lobbying which goes on, which you see a little bit in our film is the key. The Koch Brothers and oil companies are putting so much money into these political campaigns, and they’re the ones that are purporting this thing, this climate denialism that is complete and utter bullshit. So I think that’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart because it does exist and the Trump administration is even taking climate change off of their website. And it effects people of lower incomes more. The poorer you are, the more you’re going to feel climate change.

Cinedelphia: One last thing. My friends and I are all huge LOST fans. Can you help me make them jealous with a selfie?

Stephens: Absolutely!

Check out the festival at Philaenvirofilmfest.org, and check out Before the Flood at Beforetheflood.com.

Author: Dan Scully

Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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