Accessibility links

Breaking News

Washington’s Environmental Film Festival Celebrates its 18th Year

An image from "Dirt! The Movie"
An image from "Dirt! The Movie"

Also, a listener question from China about the actress Abigail Breslin. And new music by three singer-songwriters.

DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to American Mosaic, in VOA Special English.


I’m Doug Johnson. Today we play new music by three singer-songwriters.

And we answer a listener question about a young American actress.

But first, we report on this year’s Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C.


D.C. Environmental Film Festival

DOUG JOHNSON: For eighteen years, the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. has been bringing important movies to America’s capital. This thirteen-day event is taking place at fifty-six museums, embassies and movie theaters around the city. Many of the one hundred fifty-five movies explore the connection between food and the environment. Shirley Griffith has more.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The most difficult part about the Environmental Film Festival is deciding which of the movies to go see. Many of this year’s movies discuss food, agriculture, and the ways that we eat.

For example, the Italian movie “Terra Madre” explores the “slow food” movement and people who follow its ideas. This movement works to protect local food culture and traditions.

Another film called “Dirt! The Movie” looks at the health of our planet’s valuable source of fertility, dirt.

The movie explores the environmental, social and economic importance of soil. Another film,

“Seeds of Hunger,” discusses food shortages and the threats created by decreasing food production.

A series of short movies for children were shown at several public libraries in Washington. One animated movie is called “Smart Machine.” It is about a little boy who meets a food-selling machine that suggests he eat healthful food like fruit.

Other movies at the Environmental Film Festival invite viewers to visit different countries. “The Gift of Pachamama” is about a little boy in Bolivia. He travels with his father and a herd of llamas to trade salt. “The Road Ahead: The First Green Long March” takes place in China. It tells about the efforts of two thousand Chinese students as they travel around their country to better understand its environmental problems. The Danish movie “One Degree Matters” is about social and business leaders who travel to Greenland to experience the damaging effects of climate change.

The Environmental Film Festival in Washington helps increase understanding about subjects that are important for people around the world.


Abigail Breslin

DOUG JOHNSON: Our question this week comes from a Chinese girl who says she likes movies. He Xing asks for information about the young star Abigail Breslin.

Abigail has already acted in more than fifteen movies although she will turn just fourteen years old next month. She started her career in television advertisements at the age of three. When she was five, she got the part of Bo Hess in the scary movie “Signs.” She said working on the film was the “coolest experience ever.” Critics praised her performance.

Abigail Breslin’s rise to stardom came two years later in the comedy “Little Miss Sunshine.” She played Olive Hoover, a little girl who enters a beauty competition.

OLIVE: “Grandpa, am I pretty?”

GRANDPA: “You are the most beautiful girl in the whole world.”

OLIVE: “You’re just saying that.”

GRANDPA: “No I’m not! I’m madly in love with you! And it’s not because of your brains or your personality.”

Her loving but strange family members come along on the trip to the competition. Alan Arkin played Olive’s grandfather. He won an Academy Award for his work in the movie. Abigail also was nominated for an Academy Award although she did not win the Oscar. She was one of the youngest nominees ever. She is also one of Hollywood’s top earning teen stars.

Abigail Breslin was born in New York City in nineteen ninety-six. She has two older brothers. One of them, Spencer, is also an actor. They worked together in the movie “No Reservations” in two thousand seven.Abigail has also made movies for young audiences. These include “Nim’s Island” and “Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl.”

Last year, she had her first major dramatic role as Anna Fitzgerald in “My Sister’s Keeper.” She played a young girl who seeks the legal right to make her own medical decisions. Also last year, Abigail performed in the movie “Zombieland,” a scary comedy about flesh-eating dead people. She says she loves acting in horror movies and would like to do another one.

Right now Abigail Breslin is starring on Broadway in New York City. She is playing the young Helen Keller in the famous play “The Miracle Worker.”

Her stage reviews have been as good as those she receives from film critics. But Abigail Breslin has a back-up plan if her acting career does not work out. She has said she would like to be an animal doctor or a clothing designer.


Three Songwriters


Today we tell about three musicians who recently released new albums. Holly Miranda, Allison Moorer and Joanna Newsom are singer-songwriters with very different musical sounds. But these women all have musical skill and creativity in common. Mario Ritter tells us more about these three performers.


MARIO RITTER: That was the song “High Tide” from Holly Miranda’s album “The Magician’s Private Library.” Her dreamy voice is one of many layers of sounds. The album was produced by Dave Sitek, a member of the popular band TV on the Radio.

Holly Miranda grew up singing at her family’s Christian religious center. She learned to play the piano at the age of six, then learned to play the guitar. She later moved to New York City to have a career in music. Miranda is also the lead singer of the Brooklyn-based band “Jealous Girlfriends.”


That was “The Broken Girl” by Allison Moorer. Much of her music is heavily influenced by country music, which seems to run in her family. Her husband, Steve Earle, and sister, Shelby Lynne, are also country musicians.

Moorer’s latest album “Crows” combines country songs with other kinds of music. Many of her songs tell about loneliness, love and loss. She has said that to make the album, she set herself free and threw all the rules out the window.

Our last musician sings and plays the harp as well as the piano. Joanna Newsom’s latest album “Have One on Me” is over three hours long. She writes music that is hard to define. Her poetic songs combine the traditional with the unusual. She says much of her new album was influenced by her hometown of Nevada City, California. We leave you with “Good Intentions Paving Company.


DOUG JOHNSON: I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Caty Weaver and Dana Demange, who was also the producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to You can also post comments.

Do you have a question about people, places or things in America? Click Contact Us at the bottom of our Web site. Or write to We may answer your question on our show.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.