Still from E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men
The 14th annual Conservation Film Festival spanning two weeks and over 30 films returns to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, with jaw dropping films on nature and the way people interact with the world around them.
The festival includes award-winning conservation films on green energy and rising seas, five student filmmakers and films targeted for young audiences with “live wildlife animal ambassadors” after the showing, according to Jennifer Lee, the festival’s communication director.
The first weekend of screenings includes the top award winner of the festival, E.O. Wilson: Of Ants & Men.
Executive producer Graham Townsley shot a stunning film detailing the life story of Harvard biologist Edward Osborne Wilson, whose study of ants and eusocial societies sparked a firestorm between the social scientists and biologists.
Townsley was first introduced to Wilson as a graduate student studying anthropology at Cambridge University when his professors were furious with the “racist ideology” and “new eugenics” that academics said Wilson’s book Sociobiology paraded. The film traces years of student protests and Wilson’s staunch adherence to the belief that there was a “human nature” to emotions that had its roots in biology.
The film, which runs just shy of two hours, was envisioned by PBS as a modern masterpiece, Townsley said. Wilson opened up profoundly to the filmmakers and they were able to trace his life from the moment he went blind in his right eye, which guided him toward a passion for creatures that could be picked up between thumb and finger and closely examined, to his current work restoring Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa.
Now, in his late 80s, Wilson is often sitting before the camera with boxes of ant species at Harvard, on a porch in Alabama and on the top of cliffs overlooking Gorongosa. But he looks happiest swinging a net across tall grasses and pausing to pick up bugs and gasp in amazement.
Wilson provided the filmmakers with photos from his childhood and early years as a biologist. Townsley also cast a kid from Wilson’s home state of Alabama to recreate moments from Wilson’s childhood.
E.O. Wilson–Of Ants & Men won the Green Fire Award, which is the highest award given out at the festival. The award is named after Aldo Leopold and awarded to a film that helps the audience look at its relationship with the environment in a new way, wrote Lee.
The score was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Music and Sound. The film was to be the last great tribute to Wilson, Townsley said.
“It’s a real testament to Ed,” Townsley said. “What we successfully did was show the wonderful human he is.”
E.O. Wilson–Of Ants & Men will be screened at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Conservation Training Center along with words from Townsley and the presentation of the Green Fire Award. The film can also be viewed for free on PBS.