Maribel Guevara brings Latin American films on environmental issues to the forefront through her work with Environmental Film Festival.
In her late teens, Guevara wanted to discover her country, so she started hiking, climbing and developing a love for the outdoors and the environment.
The sights of the rivers, mountains and jungles she visited in her native Ecuador transformed her. She decided to dedicate her life to protect Mother Nature.
“I have been an activist since the last years of high school,” says Guevara, 31. “I’ve protested against pipelines since I was in Ecuador.”
Guevara is concerned about an environmental issue in her home country. A court pollution case with an $18 billion verdict at stake. Ecuador has been fighting Texaco, which is now owned by Chevron, for decades for contamination of its Amazon rainforest.
“The people of Ecuador should not give up. They have to keep fighting. I’m hopeful for a favorable verdict on the name of the people,” she said.
“I think Chevron is guilty and they should be paying as much money as the people of Ecuador ask… They are using millions of dollars in campaigns to clean up their name instead of using it to do what’s right.”
After studying tourism, she moved from Quito to Washington D.C. seven years ago hoping to collaborate with a non-profit doing conservation or other environmental work.
Instead she found the Environmental Film Festival in the nation’s capital. The festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, runs from March 13-25. It presents 180 documentary, narrative, animated, archival, experimental and children’s films in over 60 venues throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Guevara’s environmental quest led her to Latin American films
Guevara started volunteering six years ago. Now, as a program associate for Environmental Film Festival, Guevara works full-time to make the film festival happen.
She labors year-round looking for films- specifically Latin American films- selecting them and securing rights, one of the most challenging tasks since the festival is mostly free and organizers try to get screening fees waived.
Guevara’s main responsibilities include Latin American films and the children’s program. As an immigrant, she brings a special sensibility to the selection of films for the festival.
“We have different perspectives in life. I come from a country where people do not waste food, water, plastic containers,” explains Guevara. “I really take into account those things important to me as a Latina, whereas for other colleagues, other priorities such as film quality might be more important when choosing films.”
In her quest to find environmental stories from the region, Guevara has noticed that there aren’t many Latin American producers working on this topic.
“We come from a culture where environment is definitely not a priority. Economic and social issues are at the top of the news. The environment has been left behind although slowly it is getting to the place where it should be,” she says.
Another possible reason for the lack of Latin American films by Latin American environmental filmmakers, she says, is that most of these types of films are documentaries and it’s a harder business for filmmakers to get into.
Still, some stories are being told. The festival features 17 films from Latin America and Spain this year.
The young activist believes that through the moving image, people can not only get informed, but also be moved to make changes for the benefit of the planet.
“I believe in what I do here. It satisfies me a lot. I see people impacted by the films make changes to their lives immediately. It all goes back to how we live our lives,” she says.
“I, myself, with all the information I’ve gotten from the films, became a vegan, I bike everywhere, I don’t buy bottled water.”
Guevara is also making her voice heard whenever possible. Last August, for example she was one of hundreds arrested during a 10-day demonstration in front of the White House. She was protesting the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
“Environmental issues and consciousness are very important for everybody,” she says. “Without a clean environment we are not going to be able to survive. No matter how much economic growth, we won’t survive.