Mountain Xpress Blogwire
New food & environmental film fest announced for Asheville
Here’s the announcement via Kickstarter:
Based in lovely Asheville, NC, Fresh Asheville is a grassroots organization focused on educating and inspiring people to action through film and community participation. Fresh Asheville focuses on solutions and the importance that daily choices have on the health, environment, and sustainability of our community and the world. Fresh Asheville has teamed with the Dutch Environmental Film Festival to bring the latest and top quality related documentaries to the Asheville Food & Environmental Film Festival September 22-25, 2010. Fresh Asheville was inspired by the movie FRESH, making it the headliner of this year’s festival.
Participating restaurants will host an Opening Dinner at Eyes of Blue Farm featuring locally produced delights with proceeds to benefit this year’s community project. This will be followed by three days of citywide screenings, lectures and workshops, and a closing dinner at Eyes of Blue Farm catered by Food Experience. This will be an opportunity to have a local farm fresh meal with the attending Directors and Producers of the festival film selection. Collaborative efforts are being made with the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) and Slow Food Asheville to include students in the festival program, and to launch UNCA’s own chapter of Slow Food International during the festival, which will empower students to become more involved in solutions. There is further effort with other community organizations to implement new programs for students’ service learning through hands-on experience of fresh local food as this year’s community project. Although the community project is serving the community of Asheville, the festival will serve all who attend, and everyone is welcome from anywhere in the world.
As with any film festival, there are screening rights and fees, lecture fees, venue costs, advertising, and such. Pledges will assist with these costs and every dollar helps spread the knowledge about important issues affecting our health and the planet. The more the pledges, the more films will be shown, which means more people will be reached and inspired to action!

Asheville Citizen Times

Asheville film festival organizer wants to grow local food movement

Celeste Gray believes there's room to grow Asheville's local food movement.

That's why the 38-year-old entrepreneur and former Scandals bartender is putting all her energy behind creating a new film festival that will drive home the point that our health and our environment are suffering from industrialized food production.
Gray wants people to know there are alternative approaches — many in use right now in Western North Carolina — and other solutions.
“I thought the film festival would be a great platform to show what already is happening in our community, and also give people who have no clue what's going on ideas about how they can get involved,” Gray said.
The Asheville Food and Environmental Film Festival is scheduled for Sept. 22-25 in a variety of venues, including a farm north of Asheville, UNC Asheville and, in true Asheville style, several local breweries.
Gray says she learned to appreciate the importance of locally grown food by watching her grandfather work his cotton farm in Louisiana. Her family made everything from scratch, she says, and mastered the art of “resourceful living.”
documentary called “Fresh” inspired Gray to take action. The film highlights farmers, business people and others who are changing the way food is grown and distributed, all with an eye toward growing healthier food which is more environmentally friendly.
The moviemakers allow the film to be shown after someone like Gray organizes a community screening, “so they're creating a movement,” she says. She set up two showings of “Fresh” in March at Carolina Cinemas, and hosted another film in May at the Lexington Avenue Brewery that celebrated urban chickens.
The September film festival will include another showing of “Fresh,” as well as panel discussions and the launch of a slow food group for UNCA students. The aim is to foster collaboration among the groups already working in sustainable agriculture, and expose the ideas to more people.
“This is as grass-roots as it gets,” Gray says. “It's all about the community, and people being involved.
This is the opinion of Jason Sandford. Contact him at 232-5851 or Find Ashvegas updates online at and the full blog at

VERVE Magazine

A Fresh Face

Meet Celeste Gray, the foodie entrepreneur who’s bringing a new film fest to Asheville.

story and photo by Naomi Johnson
Five years ago, when Celeste Gray was getting into the business of renovating houses and restaurants, people asked her if she had a degree in design. “I’d tell them no, I didn’t have any experience—I just decided this was what I wanted to do and did it. That’s my personality.” These days, the 38-year-old is bringing that same brand of decisiveness to Asheville’s food scene as the driving force behind the organization Fresh Asheville. Its first big event, the Asheville Food and Environmental Film Festival, will be held later this month at UNCA and other venues around town. Its centerpiece: Fresh, a movie that changed Gray’s life.
Not that she’s a newbie foodie. Gray grew up in a Louisiana family that prized the fresh and the homegrown, and she dreamed of someday having her own farm. In the meantime, she’s held down jobs ranging from bartender at Scandals to owner of her own import business. In March, after watching the documentary Fresh, she decided to put her long-held ideals into action. To make Fresh, filmmaker Anna Joanes rounded up food-world luminaries like author Michael Pollan and uber-farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface farm in Virginia. She released the film in 2009 but not through normal channels. It was licensed only to individuals, who were required to screen it at community-building gatherings. The idea is to “join the Fresh movement, a constantly growing community striving to alter the way our food system works,” says the group’s website.
The film asks a lot from viewers, and Gray got the message loud and clear. She hosted several film viewings at Carolina Cinemas and created an organization around the cause, Fresh Asheville. Next came the idea for a full-scale film festival on the topic, and first-time community organizer Gray found herself working full time on Fresh Asheville projects.
Gray believes the time is ripe for Asheville’s food producers to collaborate. In the past six months, Fresh Asheville has gained support from local organizations and companies like Slow Food Asheville, UNCA, Danny’s Dumpsters and the grassroots environmental organization WNC Alliance. She says the owner of a local food services provider, Food Experience, saw the film and immediately planted a huge garden outside the company’s Arden headquarters. She’d like to see UNCA pair more service-learning students with local farms and have farms send more local veggies to city school cafeterias. She likens the community to an ecosystem, in which all the parts need to work together.
She hopes to make Fresh Asheville an annual event, and she needs help footing the bills. In addition to seeking sponsorships, she is soliciting public funding on the website Kickstarter to cover the considerable cost of screening rights. With a goal of $10,000, and just $755 in the bank at presstime, Gray remains remarkably sanguine. “I think Asheville really has the potential to become a model city,” she says, noting that cities like Toronto, San Francisco and Salt Lake City are hosting Fresh screenings and events. “We just have to work together.”
The Asheville Food and Environmental Film Festival runs September 22-25 at UNCA and other venues. To learn more or get involved, go to 

Fresh Asheville
<b>Fresh Asheville:</b> Celeste Adams is the force behind the inaugural Asheville Food and Environmental Film Festival.
Fresh Asheville: Celeste Gray is the force behind the inaugural Asheville Food and Environmental Film Festival.
"Everyone likes food and movies," says Celeste Gray, the force behind the Asheville Food and Environmental Film Festival. The inaugural AFEFF, which Gray intends to make into yet another yearly Asheville celebration, will span four days, and includes a bounty of film screenings, Q-and-As and various food events held at venues ranging from local farms to breweries.
The films featured at the festival, says Gray, run the gamut of topics from the science and technology of food, to raising urban hens, such as what’s shown in the UNCA student-produced film,We Still Lay.
"All of the films point out how our daily choices not only affect our health and the environment, but how something happening in another part of the world can affect a water system in a particular region," says Gray. “They focus on interrelationships worldwide, and how we can actually make a difference together."
Though the central concept may seem a little serious — and the subject matter is indeed important — Gray maintains that there is plenty of fun to be had. "The core group of films uses a lot of humor," she says. "Sure, they're dealing with serious topics, but delivering the message with humor is really important. It's not 'Oh gosh, we're doomed.' It's more light, solution-oriented and inspiring."
One of the featured movies, Fresh, focuses on the problems and consequences of our current food systems, as well as the people working to come up with solutions — much like Celeste Gray is trying to do with the AFEFF.
The director of Fresh, Ana Joanes, says that her movie is intended to start "a delicious revolution."
"We love to eat food that's fresh, artisanal, that has good flavor," says Joanes. "Often, when you get incredibly good food, you also get food that's nutritious, that heals the environment, protects biodiversity and supports your local community," she explains. "So in one swoop, you get something that's good for yourself, that's actually pleasurable in many ways. This is really what Fresh is about." In other words, she says, our actions, like what we choose to eat, have an impact beyond our plate.
Gray, says Joanes, screened Fresh in Asheville earlier this year, and it was received quite well. "She ended up thinking, 'Let's make this part of something bigger — a bigger community event that can take place in Asheville once a year that people would look forward to.' It's really her energy that turned one Fresh screening into this incredible festival," Joanes explains. "It's exciting for us, because we createdFresh with the hope that it would become a platform to turn inspiration into action ... and to generate an energy that is helping to transform our communities. And I've heard wonderful things about Asheville, that it's an incredible community."
Gray says that the concept of the festival — a focus on solution-oriented and healthy living — is one that's always been near and dear to her heart. She grew up snacking on her grandparents’ farm-fresh veggies, and attributes her mother's cancer survival to a healthy lifestyle.
Gray also adds that the film festival is for everyone. This isn't a healthy-living festival for the self-righteous elite (my words, not hers). "I do believe that there's enough diversity that it will appeal to a large group of people," she says. "Everyone's invited. All of the films effect everyone worldwide — not a certain class of people."
One of the great things about this event, she points out, is that the films aren't available elsewhere. "It's a unique opportunity to see these screenings, plus some of the directors and producers will be attending and leading Q-and-As," says Gray.
The AFEFF will kick off with a catered dinner event at at Eyes of Blue Farm, 10 minutes north of downtown. Sundance Power Systems will provide Asheville’s first and only "Solar Cinema" for a carbon-neutral farm screening of the first of the films. A biodiesel-fueled shuttle will be provided, as will a local-centric menu from local restaurants like Carmel's, Cucina 24, Bouchon and Modesto. Four days of screenings across town will follow in various venues across town. For the full schedule, see page 47.
For more information, visit
— Mackensy Lunsford can be reached

Asheville film festival examines food, environmental issues

ASHEVILLE — Food recalls, processed foods, genetically modified foods, industrialized food systems, global warming, greenhouse gas, emissions, climate change, mountaintop removal, oil spills, deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, ocean pollution, electromagnetic pollution, soil contamination, food waste, pandemics, epidemics, childhood obesity, diabetes…just to name a few. We know the problems. What are the solutions? 

From Sept. 22-25, the Asheville Food & Environmental Film Festival (AFEFF) will address these issues with clear examples of solutions and answers through films for community participation.  The films of the AFEFF point out how our simple daily choices affect our health and the environment.  Some Producers and Directors of the AFEFF film selection will attend and lead Q&As following the screenings. Other Q&As will be led by community or regional organizations working in alignment with worldwide solutions that the films of the AFEFF exemplify. Although the topics are serious, many of the films use humor in providing solutions to our planet's quandary at the present time. 
The AFEFF 2010, in its inaugural debut, will screen seventeen international films throughout Asheville over four days. The opening day will serve as a benefit for UNCA students' food and environmental organizations service learning programs and will launch a Slow Food Chapter for UNCA.  Venues include Eyes of Blue Farm (a 40-acre farm 10 minutes north of downtown Asheville), UNCA, Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, The Wedge, Earth Fare Community Center, and The LAB. The AFEFF will provide Asheville's first and only Solar Cinema for a carbon-neutral farm screening, a biodiesel-fueled shuttle, and will be waste-neutral.  The AFEFF is to become a platform that showcases Asheville as a sustainable model to attendees from cities worldwide. 
Tickets on sale now, starting at $8. To become a partner, sponsor, participant, volunteer, or for more information about the AFEFF go or contact Celeste Gray or 275-5648.