Dean Phoebe Haddon (standing) presents the Golden Tree for Best Picture,
while judge Professor Katherine Vaughns (seated) looks on.
For the past eight years students in Professor Percival's Environmental Law class have enjoyed an unusual assignment: to split up into small groups and make a short film about an environmental issue that concerns them. The purpose of the ungraded assignment is to make students think about how to communicate complicated regulatory policy issues to the public. With the rise of You Tube and other new media outlets, digital videomaking has become a valuable tool for influencing public opinion.
Students in the fall 2009 Environmental Law class made a record 13 environmental law films. As in past years the films demonstrated their enormous creativity. On April 7 "Golden Tree" awards were presented to the best films in a dozen categories as voted by an independent panel of judges.
This year's top award-winner was "Environmental INJustice" a film that examined environmental problems in Baltimore’s impoverished Cherry Hill neighborhood. Produced by Nancy Lineman, Elsa Clausen Michels and Holly Devaser, the film won Golden Trees for Best Picture, Most Educational Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Narration. Dean Phoebe Haddon capped off the awards ceremony by presenting them with the Golden Tree for Best Picture.
Three Golden Trees were garnered by the film "Just a Reminder," a solo effort from Paul Huntington. The film explored the difficulty of choosing a topic about which to make an environmental film. It won awards for Best Acting, Best Screenplay, and Best Sound, with Huntington delivering an impressive vocal performance on a clever title track whose lyrics he composed himself.
The film "Believe," a parody of the notion of clean coal, won the Golden Tree for Best Use of Humor. Produced by Taggart Hutchinson, Shauna Stringham, Beth Grasso and Will Tilburg, the film featured Tagg showering with coal-based soap, using a coal lightbulb, and cooking with coal.
Adam Sharpe and Blake Baron won the Golden Tree for Best Interviews for their film "Environmental Awareness." The film quizzed law students about a variety of environmental issues, demonstrating that their knowledge of current events often is laughably deficient.
The film "Six Stages in the History of Environmental Law" won the Golden Tree for Best Use of Special Effects. Nat Keller, Sasha Millard, and Emily Rohm used moving stick figures against a backdrop of historic photos to illustrate the history of environmental law as described in Professor Percival's casebook.
Kevin Lee’s animated film "The Tale of Corn" offered a hard-hitting critique of the environmental benefits of corn ethanol. It won the award for Best Use of Animation, as an animated book turned its own pages to explain problems with use of the fuel.
The film "Bike Club" that extols the environmental virtues of biking to school or work won a Special Judge's Award for having the best end credits. The film was produced by Charlie Friedman, Liz Shaner, Greg Simmons, and Dan Stringer.
Other films included: "Somebody Call 911: Windmills Are Killing Our Birds," which examines the impact of wind power on avian life; "Rats Are Rotten," which explores pest control techniques in Baltimore; "Baltimore Urban Gardening," highlighting the benefits of locally grown produce; "Red Rocks," which explores congressional efforts to create a new protected area; "Scrap Tires," that discusses the problem of used tire disposal; and "Solar Homes," which interviewed contestants in the Department of Energy’s solar home design competition.
The Environmental Law Program would like to express its sincere appreciation to all those who served as judges for the Golden Tree awards, including Professors Taunya Banks, Kathleen Dachille, and Kathleen Vaughns, environmental law fellow Tina Meyers, Zhenxi Zhong from Shanghai Roots & Shoots, and aspiring art educator Marita Percival.