New environmental film festival celebrates the films of Jacques Perrin

Imagery from the unreleased film "The Seasons." — Photo courtesy the MV Film Cente

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and the Vineyard Conservation Society have come together to create the Island’s first annual Environmental Film Festival, on the big screen this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Titled “Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin,” the festival will screen five of the celebrated actor and filmmaker’s nature documentaries, including A Night on Earth in its North American premiere. The Paris-based Mr. Perrin, along with members of his film staff, will attend the festival and present clips from his newest film, The Seasons, set to premiere in December 2015.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Vineyard Conservation Society has organized a yearlong series of events to promote environmental awareness on the Island. In addition to the film festival, its “Connect, Reflect, Protect” series will include lectures and children’s programs. Artwork about the environment from a contest for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students will be on display in the Film Center’s Feldman Family Artspace all week, culminating in an awards ceremony on Sunday, May 24, to honor contestants. Following the awards ceremony, Océans will be screened for the second time during the festival. The Sunday screening is free for all filmgoers 18 years old and younger.

Océans, which was released in 2009 and won a César in 2011, will launch the festival with its initial screening on Thursday, May 21. The film follows a 6:30 pm opening reception featuring Mr. Perrin and longtime Oak Bluffs seasonal resident Jesse Ausubel. Mr. Ausubel, who worked on the film as part of its scientific team, serves as director and senior research associate of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York. He also is on the faculty of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Following both screenings of Océans, he will lead Q & A sessions.

Mr. Perrin narrates Océans, and co-directed it with Jacques Cluzaud. The film, which took seven years to make, explores the mysteries of the bodies of water that make up nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface and are considered to be the planet’s last frontier. It is the most expensive documentary ever made, according to Mr. Ausubel. “I came to be a huge fan of Galatée [Films],” Mr. Ausubel said in a telephone interview about Mr. Perrin’s production company.

Mr. Perrin’s 2001 film, Winged Migration, will play on Friday, May 22. Nominated for a 2003 Best Documentary Oscar, this hauntingly beautiful film tracks the migration patterns of birds over all seven continents. Rob Culbert of Tisbury will lead the Q & A session following Winged Migration. An expert birder and ecological consultant, Mr. Culbert leads birding tours on-Island.

Mr. Perrin served as producer for the 1992 film Microcosmos, playing Saturday, May 23. Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou, this remarkable film explores the world of insects close-up, on two square meters of French prairie. Specially designed cameras take the viewer beneath the earth’s surface, and demonstrate just how athletic tiny insects really are. Paul Z. Goldstein, who has served on the board of directors of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, and in 2010 led the conservation, monitoring, and management of the Martha’s Vineyard native bee inventory for the Edey Foundation, will lead the Q & A session following the film. He serves as a research associate in the Departments of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland.

A champagne reception will precede the Saturday screening of Night on Earth. Mr. Perrin will first show clips from The Seasons, which he co-directed with Mr. Cluzaud. Still in production, this work looks at the cycle of seasons through the eyes of animals in Europe over the past 10,000 years. Night on Earth, which follows, and which Mr. Perrin co-produced, uses specially developed cameras capable of recording in very low light. The film captures the nocturnal activities of animals as never seen before. Doctoral candidate Luanne Johnson will lead the Q & A session following the film. Ms. Johnson studies the influence of urbanization on biodiversity, particularly as it affects bird species, including the piping plover. She is also studying populations of northern long-eared bats on the Vineyard.

The final festival screening on Sunday, May 24, will feature Himalaya: The Boyhood of a Chief, produced by Mr. Perrin and directed by Eric Valli. This 1999 Nepalese drama, nominated for a 2000 Best Foreign Film Oscar, follows the story of a Tibetan tribal chief and his fractious relationship with a younger chief-to-be.

In addition to being a film producer and director, Mr. Perrin has had a distinguished career as an actor, starring in Costa-Gavras’ Z, which won the 1970 Best Foreign Film Oscar for Algeria, and Giuseppe Tornore’s Cinema Paradiso, which won the 1990 Best Foreign Film Oscar for Italy and played at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center last week.

“What I love about these nature films is that they’re global,” says Mr. Ausubel. “Because of the visual power, sound and music, everyone can enjoy them. They have an incredible directness. He [Mr. Perrin] has a real genius. He gets you to fly like a bird, move like an insect.” The festival is made possible by support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

Oceans, Thursday, May 21, 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 24, 4 pm (free screening for 18 and younger).

Winged Migration, Friday, May 22, 7:30 pm.

Microcosmos, Saturday, May 23, 4 pm.

The Seasons (clips), Saturday, May 23, 7:30 pm.

Night on Earth, Saturday, May 23, 7:30 pm.

Himalaya: The Boyhood of a Chief, Sunday, May 24, 7:30 p.m.

All screenings part of “Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin” at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see