70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

Gabrielle Harris’ blog on the Czech Eco Film Festival

Gabrielle Harris is responsible for Animal Behaviour Management & Guest Experience at SAAMBR.  She writes:

With glee and excitement I accepted the honour of being invited to participate in the Czech Eco Film Festival.  It was an absolute honour representing the amazing SAAMBR and Penguin Promises at this event in the beautiful city of Prague.  I combined this trip with some personal time which included the launch of my second book in Czech.  This all made for a very busy, but as always, highly enlightening schedule. 


Different countries, including South Africa, are utilising this brand ‘eco-film festival’, to show and judge International conservation related films.  The films are in a variety of formats, from short animated snippets to feature documentaries.  Independent international film makers submit their material for review and showing at these festivals.  Most films are then available on Netflix.


The objective, in line with current interpretation thinking, is story-telling to an audience that gathers in real time.  The organiser in Czech is Mr František Štefan.  He is a business man who has young children, and is inspired to leave a better natural legacy for his children than the one that is currently looming. 


My talk was about behaviour change in people, and the lessons I have learned teaching animals – and how these are relevant to people.  I focussed on the importance of making people feel apart of something rather than instilling fear and doom and gloom.  It is my belief that when we appeal to people’s intrinsic values, we are providing them with motivation to personally do good for the environment.  These are the lessons we have learned through Penguin Promises.  The results are verified in Dr Judy Mann-Langs research work on the campaign. 


People who attend were extremely engaging, and we all spoke for a good hour after the talk.  Besides doing the presentation, I also attended a number of the movies, and was enthralled at the diversity of subject matter.  Passion drives people to make these movies, and it was inspiring to tap into the passion of the movie-makers.  I was invited to assist by doing a talk at the opening ceremony as well as assisting with the prize giving at the final ceremony.  Both ceremonies were held in museum establishments in the city of Prague.  Beautiful settings with glass chandeliers and historical artwork.


Meetings and Insight
The 2016 theme for the Film Festival

The film festival had an interesting theme.  They have used this theme in the last couple of years.  Last year they had animals ‘dressed up’ as endangered animals.  This year they had humans dressed in this way.  The concept being – we are needing actors because the main features are in trouble.

 Attending the festival provided me with the opportunity to meet many amazing people.  Judges invited to judge the proceedings  included Mr Michael Havas, a seasoned conservation film maker, Richard Baxter who works for the Gerald Durrell foundation, and Jan Stavos, a local Czech artist and film maker.  It was fascinating to meet these men and learn about their passions and enthusiasm for nature from a position where they, like we, are working to generate empathy in humanity.  All had strong views on the use of the digital world to tell stories in today’s age of technology.  I also had the good fortune to meet some of the film makers.  They were all so passionate about their subject matter, and spoke inspiringly about what the conservation education industry needs to achieve, and how we need to go about achieving our goals. 

František Štefan, Gabrielle Harris, Jana Štefanová a František Šusta

It is impossible to provide feedback on all aspects of my visit.  In my personal capacity I was provided so many wonderful opportunities.  The inspiration of interfacing with fellow animal lovers, trainers and conservation enthusiasts, who provide insight and ideas of their own, can never be over-estimated. 


Once again – thank you for the opportunity.

Gabrielle Harris