Article Features

Locally Made Animated and Documentary Films Inspire and Entertain

The Greenlight Earth Day Film Festival, held in Palo Alto on April 22, 2006, featured animated cartoons, documentaries and dramas that illustrated how individual actions can reduce overall environmental impacts and improve the quality of life for everyone. 

Of the 46 entries received, nine films made it to the finals and were shown as “Best Of” at the film festival in three categories: Grades 6–8, Grades 9–12 and Open (adult). Entrants worked alone and in teams to produce thoughtful, insightful and, in some cases, highly comedic films that captured the hearts of the adults and children in the audience.

The event was “two thumbs up,” according to Jim Burch, former Palo Alto mayor and film festival juror who said, “The film-makers showed tremendous creativity and ability to use the video medium to convey their message. The films were outstanding.”

To set the mood for the festival, the theater was transformed into a venue reminiscent of Hollywood with eight-foot Oscar-style statues gracing two pillars, stars along the sidewalk, and film reels, movie posters, actor cut-outs and green carpet adorning the entry. In the spirit of Earth Day, waste at the event was reduced by borrowing, renting and salvaging cast-off materials for props and supplies.

Producer Austin Tamaddon, who won first place in the category Grades 6–8 for his film “A Can’s Life,” celebrated his win by bringing along the star of his video, an empty can of orange soda, to share the limelight onstage. Tamaddon’s stop-action animated video was a crowd favorite with many of the voices of the bottle and can characters in his film played by himself, his mother and his sister.

“I was amazed by the quality of the films the middle and high school kids produced,” said Rich Schwerin, a member of the audience. “They were fun and inspiring, and actually taught me a few things I didn’t know. It feels good to know that kids are thinking about environmental issues. Events like this one encourage that interest and showcase their talent as film-makers.”

Film topics included global warming, recycling, oil consumption, alternative fuel cars, biotechnology and food, energy and water conservation, pesticide use, littering and consumer habits.

The winning film from category Grades 9–12, “Kind of Really Important,” ended poignantly with the timely and inspirational message, “It’s not the end — it’s just the beginning!”

The John Davi animated cartoon “Bettah” won first place in the Open category for its portrayal of a plug-in, hybrid-driving character who always makes out better than his fellow oil-dependent, gas-hog-driving humans. Attendees were singing his mantra (“Bettah”) as they exited the theater.

The finalists won prizes such as editing software, gift certificates to classes at the Midpeninsula Community Media Center or local photography stores, tours of a video gaming company and more. All 46 entries were broadcast on Cable Channel 28 (Midpeninsula Community Media Center service area) and webcast the week of April 23–29.

A list of the winners is available at  

Contact: Kim Brown, GreenLight Earth Day Film Festival chair; phone: (650) 329-2417; web:

This article appears in the July 2006 issue of Western City
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