Lucy Walker's Oscar-nominated film The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom will screen at EFF this year.

While creating public programs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City for 15 years, Flo Stone learned that movies were a great draw. Film is one of the most effective means to reach people on complex environmental issues, so after moving to Washington, D.C., she applied that knowledge to her green streak and established the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (EFF), which since that time has premiered almost 700 films, including world premieres of important titles like A Sea Change (2009), Carbon Nation (2010), and Planeat (2011). This year it celebrates its 20th event from March 13 to 25, during which 180 films (and 93 premieres) will be shown in 64 venues. Its founder took a minute to answer our questions before the excitement begins.

Q. What’s the role of film in turning the tide on the environmental challenges we face? 

Flo Stone, the Environmental Film Festival's founder.

A.In the first years of the EFF, people often asked: Why environmental films? To attract large audiences, some suggested that we drop the word environment, but for me, the environment is all-encompassing and central to our life and future. I also felt its infinite diversity could be reflected in films of all kinds: documentaries, animation, narrative features, experimental films, and a range of films especially for children. Film tells stories in so many different ways. Great films focus attention, and you can learn endlessly through the eyes of talented filmmakers. We need quality films, as we face major environmental challenges, to give us greater understanding and unforgettable experiences. Never underestimate the power of film at its most compelling and artistic.

Q. What has surprised you about the films you’ve screened over the years?