World needs many gestures like this to get better

Interview with Mário Branquinho, Diretor CineEco –  Festival Internacional de Cinema Ambiental da Serra da Estrela, Seia, Portugal.

CineEco is one of the oldest environmental film festival in Europe (and the only one in Portugal) with a proud history of more than 20 years. It is organised by Municipal House of Culture in Seia and CISE – Interpretation Centre of the Serra da Estrela.

Seia is situated on the the territory of the Natural Park of the Serra da Estrela, beautiful natural reserve. Green mountains surround the red-roofs town that annually compete more then 600 documentaries from all over the world.

Green Film Network  continues a series of interviews with environmental film festival directors. Mario Branquinho, director of CinEco, has talked with us about his work, his challenges and Seia itself.


How did it all begin? How was Cine Eco born?

In 1994,  I ran a national competition of environmental videos as a part of a project about the rural developments. As everything went well, the following year I proposed to the municipal council of Seia and other entities the organization of a Movies Festival on this theme. That’s how it all started.

Do you remember your very first festival?

The first festival, in 1995, was one of the most expensive. We wanted to give an image of great dimension in Portugal, so we made a big presentation party of the festival in Lisbon. It gave to the festival a national mark. Both audience and media accepted the festival extremely well, not only because it was different, but also because it gave such an importance to the theme of the environment. Back than it was not that popular as it is now.


What is the most difficult part of your work now?

The most difficult part is to attract more media attention on a national scale. Seia is 300 kilometers far from Lisbon, which is a long distance. So we found out it is a little complicated. But we are trying to fill this gap. We make the festival editions in Lisbon and in other cities of the country. To attract audience is another very important challenge.

What do you like the most in your work?

I specially enjoy the teamwork and the fair play in a multicultural framework, people from other countries who belong to different realities. I like a lot to explore the topic of the environment protection and sustainable resource management because I think these problems should make us think and should be discussed.

CineEco is also known by being an affections’ festival. It means that at each edition important ties of friendship were born among the participants.


Can you remember some funny story that happened during preparation of the Festival that you can share?

This is the story of one of the best Portuguese actors ever and it happened when he was honored in CineEco. His name is Raul Solnado.

In the day of his tribute we went walking in the streets together. Suddenly an old lady stopped us:

Hello, are you Raul Solnado? – she asked.

No, I’m not. – answered Solnado.

 Ah, but you look so much like him, take advantage of that!

Which was the movies festival, among those that you have visited, those that you remember the most?

CineEco has a strong connection with festivals that take place in Brazil due to the same language. Like festival in Goiás, also Filmambiente in Rio de Janeiro and Festcineamazónia. I was a jury member at each of them and participated in conferences and other initiatives.

I also had the privilege to visit Cinemambiente in Turin; FIFE in Paris, Ecozine in Zaragoza and the Cinema Planeta in Mexico, where I also was a jury. All of them have excellent directors, with whom I could develop a spirit of mutual collaboration. For many years we are good friends with Gaetano Capizzi. Once our festivals were “the front-runners” in the creation of the network of festivals.

Do you have any tips to the other organizers of movies festival? Some words of wisdom…

Today the great challenge is to try to screen the environment movies to a bigger audience. The challenge is huge. One should try to form a programme that proves that there are a lot of great interesting movies about environment.


Why did you choose films as a tool to convey the environmental message? Why do you think is a good way?

The audiovisual is a very important way to pass the environmental message because it is interactive and appealing. An open window that has the power to educate, to touch, to denounce and to entertain.

We consider that the American film industry is swinging towards the environmental themes. It can help to democratize the topic and make more accessible to the general public. But there is still a long way to go…

Which are the other ways that work from your experience?

The work within the schools is very important, to educate public for the movies and for the environment care. CineEco also organizes parallel activities such as conferences, concerts, exhibitions and workshops.

Do you believe that you partially “are saving the world” with your work?

We are not saving the world, but the world needs many gestures like this to get better. Each one of us has the responsibility to help to improve the world we live in.

By Anastasia Laukkanen