The primary example is "Greenlit," a documentary about the making of another AIFF feature, "The River Why," and how filmmakers tried to take a sustainable approach to their work on that film.

The Ashland Independent Film Festival opens today in Ashland, promising a wide selection of documentaries, features, short films and animation.

Sustainability has emerged as a common theme in many of the offerings at this year's festival, which runs through Monday at the Varsity Theater, the Historic Ashland Armory and Ashland Springs Hotel.

"We really look for quality first when choosing films, and then sometimes certain years some themes are prevalent with filmmakers," says Joanne Feinberg, AIFF programming director. "Definitely the environment is a big one this year."

The primary example is "Greenlit," a documentary about the making of another AIFF feature, "The River Why," and how filmmakers tried to take a sustainable approach to their work on that film.

"I think the interest in our environment is being explored by many filmmakers because we are unsatisfied with the way it is being treated," says Miranda Bailey, director of "Greenlit."

"Most artists seem to speak from a desire to affect and change if possible, and I think that is what these films are doing. Saying, we are sick of the way things are ... this is what is happening and we all need to be informed about it in order for us to change the way we are affecting our own livelihood."

The filming process also opened the door to some difficult questions for Bailey.

"'Greenlit' is a film about me really coming to terms with the fact that the business I am in and the art that I live is actually really polluting to our environment," she says. "It poses the questions to me: Why should I make a green film? How much would it cost? And what exactly does it mean right now to be considered green?"

The film is followed by a discussion panel "It Ain't Easy Being Green," moderated by Jeff Golden, former talk show host on Jefferson Public Radio. The panel will be made up of Bailey, representatives from "The River Why" and local sustainability experts who will discuss green issues touched on in the film.

"It is a film about making a film in Hollywood and trying to make it green," Feinberg says. "We like that approach and we like to give the audience an opportunity to discuss with people ways to get involved."

"The River Why" is a feature filmed in Oregon about a man who looks for deeper meanings through fly fishing.

Other sustainable standout films include "Garbage Dreams," "Bag it" and "Climate Refugees."

"Garbage Dreams" follows three boys in a Cairo ghetto who are part of a traditional subculture, the Zaballeen, which collects trash and recycles it. The extremely efficient system faces challenges brought on by globalization.

In "Bag It," a man makes the decision to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. The move prompts him to look at society's use of plastic and disposable packaging, and the environmental consequences.

The impact of climate change on human populations is examined in "Climate Refugees." The filmmakers spent more that two years documenting the ways people are moving in large numbers because their environment is changing. The film looks at quickly submerging islands in the South Pacific, growing deserts in China and Africa and coastal areas in Bangladesh and New Orleans threatened by increasing storm surges.

The festival is also working to reduce its impact on the environment again this year. Renewable energy credits offset all the AIFF electricity usage. The credits are provided through a partnership with Pacific Power's Blue Sky program and the Ashland Renewable Pioneers program.

Festival organizers are also trying to recycle as much waste as possible throughout the preparations and running of the multi-day event.

Myles Murphy is an editor and reporter with the Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-482-3456 ext. 222 or mmurphy@dailytidings.com.