2016 – A Good Year for ACFF

We deeply thank everyone who helped make 2016 such a successful and engaging year for ACFF – our filmmakers, audience members, donors, and community partners.  Please take a look at our accomplishments for 2016, and, with your help, what we hope to do in 2017, OUR 15 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

DOWNLOAD 2016-year-in-review with PHOTOS





The mission of the American Conservation Film Festival is to promote outstanding films and the arts to educate and inspire people to become engaged in conservation issues.

This mission is achieved by: providing a venue for diverse conservation films that rarely receive a wide showing; celebrating conservation film and video in the vibrant atmosphere of historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia; showcasing independent, international, student, and regional films; offering an education component that complements film selections and supports those interested in conservation filmmaking, and; supporting emerging filmmakers as they are beginning their careers.

We are proud and grateful to share these accomplishments from this year.


Nearly doubled film submissions from 150 to 270 and from 38 counties, due to enhanced outreach to new and alumni filmmakers and film schools as well as a new submission platform (Film Freeway).

Selected and screened 35 of the most compelling, diverse, and visually rich films from around the world to present over two weekends of the Festival. Streamlined submission and selection processes for more efficient review and administration. Film topics included climate change, alternative energy production, wildlife conservation, cultural heritage, heroes in conservation, and biodiversity.

Welcomed over a dozen scholars and filmmakers, including four student filmmakers, to speak with audience members about film topics.

Presented the fifth annual Conservation Filmmaker Workshop, a two-day documentary filmmaking workshop, to 24 emerging filmmakers with instructors from independent production companies, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, Conservation Media Group, and National Geographic.

Provided financial support toward the travel, lodging, and filmmaker workshop tuition of four aspiring filmmakers from Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Chicago through the Alex Kemnitzer Emerging Filmmaker Fund.

Launched five new film awards in addition to three existing awards to recognize excellence in the following categories: Green Fire Award (for overall excellence); Student Filmmaker Award (with a $500 cash prize); Foreign Film Award; Short Film Award; Green Spark awards highlighting a conservation hero, pathways to sustainability, and inspiring the next generation; and the Audience Choice Award.

Offered a full second weekend of the Festival to present an encore of the eight award winners and two films not screened on the first weekend.

Realized a 46% increase in ticket sales over 2015 and 118% increase over 2014. Utilized larger venues to accommodate 40% increase in attendees.

Established a Festival Headquarters during the first festival weekend in downtown Shepherdstown to welcome visitors, sell tickets and distribute information, and provide a gathering place for audience members, sponsors, and filmmakers.

Hosted a live wildlife program from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center to educate audience members of all ages about the region’s native wildlife and habitat.

Partnered with the Shepherdstown Rotary Club and Shepherd University to present two film blocks especially targeted to and free for high school and college students. Presented a special film block of student films and festival previews to Shepherd University Environmental Studies students to spark interest in conservation filmmaking.

Offered free admission to all students 18 or younger at all film blocks and to Shepherd University and Shenandoah University at selected film blocks, significantly increasing youth attendance throughout the festival.

Employed four Shepherd University student interns during the festival to assist with festival operations, headquarters staffing, and customer service. Engaged approximately 35 volunteers throughout the year, contributing over 300 volunteer hours, in the areas of event planning and hosting, technical support, promotion, and more.


Held a spring fundraiser featuring the film Unbranded and its filmmaker, with 125 attendees, raising over $7,000 for ACFF and $3,000 for the Mustang Heritage Foundation to support a military veteran’s adoption of a mustang through its Mustang Mentors program.

Hosted Best of Fest special movie screenings at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Maryland and Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville, Virginia, with a total of over 300 people in attendance.

Partnered with the Shepherdstown Rotary Club and Shepherd University’s School of Business & Social Sciences to present the film The Bat Man of Mexico in accordance with the Rotary’s World Affairs Seminar featuring the theme of pollination.

Partnered with the National Park Service Centennial Film Festival at the National Conservation Training Center to present three park-related films from an ACFF alumni filmmaker and founding member.

Partnered with the Environmental Film Festival of the Nation’s Capital to co-present films at our respective film festivals (Unbranded at DCEFF in March, Babushkas of Chernobyl at ACFF in October).

Partnered with the Shepherdstown Film Society for a special film screening of Dare To Be Wild and a preview of 2016 festival films.

Created an ACFF in the Classroom program to provide Instructor Screening Guides that include course mappings and curricular keywords to help instructors connect the content of four selected films to specific topics encountered in the classroom.

Continued to build income reserves through sponsorships, grants, and individual donations to secure fiscal viability and sustainability for the organization, while keeping expenses at a consistent level.


As we celebrate our most successful year yet, we look forward to expanding our influence, growing our educational impact, and developing stronger partnerships to ensure relevance, sustainability, and outreach far into the future.

With the support of individuals, businesses, foundations, and community partners, we hope to:

  • Grow programs that introduce students to conservation issues, science, media, and filmmaking.
  • Recruit partners in the environmental, science, and media fields to help teach, promote, and execute these educational programs.
  • Provide access to select ACFF films to schools, community groups, and organizations and greater exposure for filmmakers and the critical issues they explore through their films.
  • Continue to present the most important, contemporary conservation films to diverse audiences throughout the region.
  • Provide resources that facilitate further understanding and exploration, opportunities to convert inspiration into action, and connections to the causes and organizations that will help people make a positive difference.


“I always look forward to this festival. Extremely fluid operations, best ever. Nice balance of venues, film choice, and film-related events.” ~ audience member

“I recently have been struggling with direction, creativity, etc [and] this workshop has really opened my mind to new possibilities and has inspired me to take on some new things.” ~ Conservation Filmmaker Workshop participant

“After my experience at this workshop and festival, I have decided to reassess my goals as a filmmaker and to pursue something more inline with my passions.” ~ student filmmaker and workshop participant

“I was delighted at last to have ACFF represented at the Barns. Thank you again for such a wonderful evening and event!” ~ Best of Fest hosting partner


During the festival, we encourage ticket holders to visit this page to vote for their favorite film.  At midnight on Sunday, October 23rd, all the votes will be tallied and we will bestow upon the film with the highest vote count, the 2016 ACFF Audience Choice Award!  Results will be announced the following day on our website and on social media.  The Audience Choice winning film will be shown, along with another award winner, during Block 13 on Saturday, October 29th at the Frank Center, which begins at 7:30 pm.  Be sure to cast your vote and grab your ticket!

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Things to Know
An Acquired Taste
The Babushkas of Chernobyl
Beneath Paradise
Bluebird Man
Canyon Song
Catching the Sun
Defined by the Line
EO Wilson: Of Ants and Men
Forget Shorter Showers
How to Change the World
Life Story – First Steps
Marijuana Grows and Restoration
Medieval Monsters
Monarchs: The Milkweed Mission
Moving the Giants
Pale Blue Dot
Pronghorn Revival
Racing Extinction
Return of the Cicadas
Saving Mes Aynak
Seed: The Untold Story
Sharing the Secrets
Sonic Sea
Testimony: Remembering Glen Canyon
The Burden: Fossil Fuel, The Military and National Security
The Messenger
The True Cost
Think Like a Scientist: Boundaries
Think Like a Scientist: Gorongosa
Thirty Million
Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change
Where Ice & Ocean Meet: Kenai Fjords National Park



ACFF Presents 14th Season!

The 14th annual American Conservation Film Festival opens Friday, October 21st with a festive reception and two blocks of three films each and culminates with its Encore Award Winners weekend October 28-30. The Festival brings together the finest conservation films and filmmakers from around the world and features discussions with scientists and educators, professional workshops, family programming, and social events — all with the mission of engaging, informing, and inspiring its audience through the power of film.

This year’s Festival will present films with a wide range of environmental and conservation themes. The Green Fire Award winning film, E.O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men, tells the story of this remarkable thinker and biologist, called “a Darwin for the modern day.” Filmmaker Graham Townsley will be in attendance to accept his award and speak about the film.

Catching the Sun (Green Spark Award winner for Sustainability) follows the global race between the U.S. and China to lead the world to a cleaner energy future.

The Foreign Film Award goes to Thirty Million, a film about the impending displacement of tens of millions of people in Bangladesh as they face rising sea levels due to climate change.

For the younger set, ACFF presents an exciting and delightful film called Life Story – First Steps about the challenges baby animals face in the first few days of life. This feature length film will be followed by an educational program from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center featuring live wildlife animal ambassadors.

At four venues in and around Shepherdstown, ACFF invites its audience to explore the world through the stories, images, and people that create this offering of compelling films. Several filmmakers and subject matter experts will be present during the festival and participating in discussions following the screening of their films. Films are arranged in thoughtfully considered “blocks” to allow for maximum screening options and a diverse array of topics and film lengths.

Rotary Logo Shepherd Logo icon for web


In partnership with The Shepherdstown Rotary Club and Shepherd University’s School of Business & Social Sciences, the American Conservation Film Festival presents ‘The Bat Man of Mexico’ in celebration of The World Affairs Seminar and its theme of POLLINATION.

Bat Man

Rodrigo, ‘The Bat Man of Mexico,’ has been saving the amazing bats of his homeland since childhood, when he kept vampire bats in his bathroom.

Now his favorite drink, Tequila, is at stake. The bat that pollinates the plant that this famous liquor comes from is in trouble. Rodrigo braves hurricanes, snakes, Mayan tombs, and seas of cockroaches to find and save the bats. Narrated by David Attenborough, this is a heart-warming and breathtaking conservation success story. 64 minutes.

An audience favorite of the 2015 Festival!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 6:30 pm

Jefferson Room in White Hall (Rm 104)

on Shepherd University Campus

Free & Open to the Public

For more information, please contact David Manthos at david.manthos@gmail.com.


ACFF presents at DCEFF

ACFF Partners with DCEFF – the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital – for the screening of UNBRANDED

MARCH 17, 7pm at E STREET CINEMA, 555 11th Street NW, Washington, DC


We are thrilled to partner with our fellow film festival in the city, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF), to share some of our favorite films with our respective audiences.  DCEFF will screen UNBRANDED at the Landmark E Street Cinema on March 17, 2016, at 7pm.  As at ACFF in 2015, the film’s producer, Dennis Aig from Montana State University, will be on hand for a brief discussion after the film.
Last fall marked the beginning of this partnership between ACFF and DCEFF when the latter presented Tiger Tiger, the William Warner Beautiful Swimmers Award Winner from the 2015 DCEFF, at our Festival in October.  The purpose of this partnership is to share more outstanding environmental films with wider audiences and help promote collaborations between festivals and filmmakers.

UNBRANDED follows four young men on a 3,000 mile journey with 16 wild mustangs to demonstrate the value of these horses and the public lands they occupy.  The film has won multiple festival awards and thrilled audiences around the world.


Unbranded logo & laurels
Tickets are FREE, but the screening is expected to be full, so REGISTER FOR YOUR SEAT HERE.
Join us for a special St. Patrick’s Day evening in the big city, catch this wonderful film, and go celebrate the luck of the Irish at one of these DC eateries/pubs!  We hope to see you there and we thank theDCEFF for this partnership opportunity.

Best of Fest in Frederick February 6, 2016

The American Conservation Film Festival’s Best of Fest returns to the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, MD, for the fourth year for an event featuring live music, beer tasting, three films, and discussion about horse rescue following the feature film, Unbranded. This special cinematic event coincides with Frederick’s annual Fire in Ice – February First Saturday – so much festivity all in one place!               

Line-up for February 6 at The Weinberg:

6pm – Reception with music from Woven Green, an acoustic folk duo and Beer Tasting with Flying Dog Brewery

 7pmWelcome and introduction of films and guests

 7:10 – Osprey: Marine Sentinel the first film in over 30 years starring one of the world’s most iconic and significant raptors. A beautifully shot conservation success story. (15 minutes)

7:25 – White Earth – ACFF’s 2015 Student Filmmaker Award Winner – a striking story about the oil boom in America’s Northern Plains as seen through the eyes of a child and young family. (20 minutes)

7:45 – Brief Intermission

7:55 – Unbranded – one of the world’s most popular documentary films of 2015, this exciting adventure follows four riders and 16 wild mustangs over 3,000 miles to tell a story of the plight of the west’s wild horses, land rights, and sheer determination. (106 minutes)

9:40 – Discussion with Days End Farm Horse Rescue – representatives from DEFHR in Woodbine, MD, will discuss the challenges and joys of horse rescue, rehabilitation, and educational outreach.

Tickets are just $8 for adults; $5 for seniors/students and are available on the Weinberg’s website at http://www.weinbergcenter.org/11725/best-of-american-conservation-film-festival/ or AT THE DOOR.

Best of Fest gives the American Conservation Film Festival the opportunity to take a sampling of what the annual film festival offers in Shepherdstown to other communities in the region. Best of Fests have been held in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia over the past several years.

This Best of Fest is generously sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery.

 The Trail House has donated a gift certificate to be given to a lucky audience member at intermission. ACFF is very grateful to these businesses and the Weinberg Center for the Arts for their support!

Thank you, EVERYONE, for a Fabulous Festival!

DSC_8962 sign & watchtowerOn behalf of the Board and staff of the American Conservation Film Festival, we extend our heartfelt thanks to our community, filmmakers, sponsors, volunteers, participants, cheerleaders, and audience members who laughed, cried, and celebrated with us during the 2015 Festival, October 22 to 25 and November 1.

It was a fantastic festival, with 50 amazing films, record numbers of ticket sales and filmmakers and special guests attending, and an incredibly supportive community of festival-goers, donors, and community members. We are very fortunate to be a part of this community and could not present this event without all of you.

The mission of ACFF is to promote outstanding films and the arts to educate and inspire people to become engaged in conservation.   Through the power of some of the best documentary conservation-themed films in the world and your participation, we achieve this mission. Our minds are expanded, our hearts are touched, and our behaviors are often changed to become more mindful of our impact on the world and each other.

This season, we presented 50 films over five days, welcomed over 30 filmmakers and special guests from around the country, had four standing-room-only film blocks, presented our 4th Conservation Filmmaker Workshop to 27 emerging and seasoned filmmakers, had two great after-parties, gave four awards to the most outstanding films, and welcomed over 500 audience members. By all measures, it was a great success.

There are too many people and organizations to thank by name in this letter, but do know that each and every one – from the ushers to program advertisers to our venues and party hosts to our filmmakers – is critical in bringing this unique and powerful festival experience to our community and audience. Thank you.


Joining us for the Festival? Here’s what you need to know!

This year marks our 13th Season!  From Thursday, October 22nd through Sunday, October 25 and November 1, we’ll be bringing you 48 films in 5 venues.  We are welcoming 33 filmmakers and conservation experts to town for post screening discussions.  Be sure to check out our FULL SCHEDULE as you make your plans.

We highly encourage you to purchase festival tickets online HERE to guarantee your seat.
Tickets are available for purchase NOW at The Local Source: 133 W. German Street.
You may also purchase tickets during the Festival at each festival venue.
For purchases made at the Reynolds Hall and Byrd Center for Legislative Studies box offices, we prefer cash or check transactions though credit cards will also be accepted.

Those who have signed up as a REEL FRIEND of ACFF should bring their Reel Friend passes for entrance into all films and events.  We will also have a list at the door of each venue.

We have 3 types of tickets:
Full Festival Pass $40 ($36 student/senior/military)
Day Pass $20 ($18 student/senior/military)
Block Ticket $12 ($10 student/senior military)
All films on Shepherd Campus are FREE to SU students with Rambler ID.
All films at NCTC are PAY AS YOU WANT – government issued ID required for all guests 16+.  We still encourage you to reserve a seat online.

Doors open at each venue a half hour before each film block.  We encourage you to arrive 15-30 minutes before start time to be sure you have a seat.

We’re inviting audience members and filmmakers to join us at the following gatherings:
Thursday, October 22nd – Preview Night at NCTC.  Two great films will screen, beginning at 7pm and concluding around 9.  Both filmmakers will be in attendance.  See more info here.
Friday, October 23 – GET SHAKEN & STIRRED WITH ACFF at Tito’s Night at domestic restaurant from 9:30 to midnight.  Special Tito’s cocktails, free nibbles, and a late-night dinner menu available.  And MUSIC from Ginada Pinata! Sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
Saturday, October 24 – WRAP PARTY at the Blue Moon from 9:30 to midnight with free hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.  Sponsored by Younis Orthodontics and Fallon Insurance.
Sunday, November 1 – Award Winners Encore Event – This year’s four ACFF award-winning films will be presented at the Shepherdstown Opera House beginning at 4:30 pm.  Please reserve a Pay As You Want ticket for this event online in advance, as we do expect a full house.For more info on Shepherdstown and all the great dining, shopping, lodging, and recreational offerings, check out the Shepherdstown Visitor Center’s site HERE.
Please give yourself plenty of time to find parking and get to your venue(s).  Free street parking is available Friday after 6pm and Saturday and Sunday, but do not park in residential parking zones!  Parking is also available in lots A and B on Shepherd University.
Be aware that King Street (in front of Reynolds Hall), between German Street and High Street, will be closed on Saturday from 8am to 8pm for BooFest events, so plan accordingly.
You can check out a Shepherdstown map here and a
Shepherd University Parking Map here.
And finally, check out this beautiful spread about the Festival in a special edition of Fluent magazine.

We look forward to seeing you this weekend!