NEWS RELEASE: Students from Award-Winning Course “Producing the Documentary” to Screen New Film About Sustainable Shrimp Farming in Belize

NEWS RELEASE: Students from Award-Winning Course “Producing the Documentary” to Screen New Film About Sustainable Shrimp Farming in Belize

From seafood markets and plush restaurants of Manhattan to the ponds and breeding tanks of Belize’s shrimp farms, “Linda Thornton: Seeking Sustainability, One Shrimp at a Time” explores efforts to farm shrimp with the environment in mind

Meet student filmmakers at the public premiere Thursday, May 19 at 3:00pm, Pace University, Pleasantville, entrance 2, Lienhard Lecture Hall; New York Times Dot Earth blogger and Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace, Andrew Revkin to speak

PLEASANTVILLE, NY, May 12, 2011 – In a new documentary, “Linda Thornton: Seeking Sustainability, One Shrimp at a Time,” a team of Pace University student filmmakers explores the life of a resilient, pioneering aquaculture entrepreneur as she pushes the frontiers of sustainable shrimp farming in Belize.

The 17-minute film is being released on several web sites this week. The premiere screening is set for Thursday, May 19 at 3:00pm, Pace University, 861 Bedford Rd., Pleasantville, entrance two, Lienhard Lecture Hall, 3rd floor. Andrew Revkin, New York Times Dot Earth blogger and Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, will speak about the making of the film and his role in it. The student filmmakers and their professor will be on hand as well. The event is free and open to the public. Media admission by press pass.

Linda Thornton is the quintessential innovator, but with a deep green streak — overcoming daunting personal and technical challenges to fulfill a lifelong dream of farming a staple of the global middle class diet, shrimp, while cutting environmental impacts.

In the film students in the award-winning Pace University course “Producing the Documentary” tell Thornton’s story, which over three decades takes her from early experiments with urban indoor shrimp farming in Chicago to hard-won success in Belize, a country aiming to build its economy without harming its extraordinary natural assets – particularly its coastal mangrove forests and coral reefs.

Undaunted by a boating accident that in 1994 took the lives of her husband and two other men and left her partially paralyzed, Thornton rebuilt her body and her early Belizean farming business.

After initial confrontations with environmental groups fighting a wave of shrimp farm development that was damaging coastal ecosystems from Asia to the Americas, Thornton, together with Tim Smith, a biologist working for the World Wildlife Fund, refined methods for controlling feed and water that dramatically cut pollution.

Their collaboration is part of a move within the shrimp aquaculture industry toward standards that could soon give shoppers the option of buying shrimp that are certified as sustainably raised.

Thornton, still in pain from her injuries long ago, now works at three different shrimp farms in Belize, one of which is her own Cardelli Farms, named for her father. She has also been a leader in improving labor practices in the industry.

In the film, Smith describes Thornton as gritty and creative and a natural bridge builder between the aquaculture industry and conservationists.

“She is one of the toughest and most competent people I have met,” Smith says. “Just a person that’s barely able to walk some mornings and she gets up and … runs a thousand acres of shrimp farms and then comes home and then runs her own farm. That’s not a trivial thing. There are hulls of businesses that were not able to do that all around her, all around Belize.”

The project highlights a shift in the ever-growing $10 billion industry toward raising shrimp with minimal impact on the environment.  The film takes viewers from the seafood markets and plush restaurants of Manhattan to the sprawling ponds of Belize’s shrimp farms and even into the breeding tanks where huge Pacific white shrimp mingle and mate to start the cycle of production.

In the documentary course, created nine years ago by Pace communications professor Maria Luskay, PhD, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students produce a short film each spring, spending January and February reporting and planning the shoot – which consumes much of their March spring “break” — and then editing and producing the final product.

Students in last year’s course won “Best in Category for Documentary” in the Indie Short Film Competition for their 2010 film, “The Life of An American Ambassador: The Netherlands.” For more information visit the Pace media and communications department web site at www.pace.edu/dyson/mediacomm. In past years Luskay has taken students to Nassau, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Tuscany, to produce films.

“This is a tale of endurance and creativity,” said Luskay, director of the Pace graduate program in media and communication arts.

The new film involved partnerships with schools of journalism and communication at the University of Colorado and The George Washington University, which shot interviews with experts in Boulder and Washington, D.C.

The film can be viewed here. The making of the film is detailed on the students’ blog. Follow the students on Twitter @got_shrimp and on Facebook.

For interviews with the student filmmakers, Luskay or Revkin, contact Cara Cea in the Pace University office of public information. ccea@pace.edu, (914) 906-9680.

About Pace University

For 105 years, Pace University has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu

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