NaturVision is Germany’s oldest nature, wildlife and environmental film festival. Launched in 2002 in Neuschönau in the Bavarian Forest, the festival moved to its new home of Ludwigsburg in the German state of Baden-Württemberg in 2012. The venue is the Central Theater Ludwigsburg. Since 2014 the festival has also offered a free open-air cinema, a market with regional and sustainable vendors and a science slam.
At the heart of the festival is the international film competition. As well as nature and wildlife films, the NaturVision festival focuses heavily on environmental and sustainability issues. As well as the „German Conservation and Sustainability Film Award“, the „German Wildlife Film Award“ and the „German Biodiversity Film Award“ are presented at the NaturVision award ceremony, where additional prize categories include camera work, dramatisation, film music, children’s film and the audience award.
Each year the festival is devoted to a special theme, which is presented in films, talks and special events. In recent years, themes have included „Soil & Water“ and renewable energy. In 2015 it was planned to seek and present in particular solutions for global problems in a multi-year cycle under the slogan „Islands of the Future“.
Another area in which the NaturVision Film Festival is active is educating young people about the environment. So for instance, in the run-up to the festival, many schools in Baden-Württemberg run programmes to which experts or filmmakers are invited. At the „Film & Discussion“ youth media workshops, experts show films about sustainability issues to the school classes, while teachers’ workshops explain the basics of media work with children and young people. As well as the school programme and childcare facilities, the festival also puts on a children’s film programme for all age groups. In the film competition a separate youth jury chooses its favourites and announces them at the grand gala award ceremony. To ensure that it can also campaign on the cultural policy level for environmental education to be provided through the festival, NaturVision also became one of the founding members of the Association of Bavarian Film Festivals in 2014.
Apart from the festival serving as a platform for NGOs focused on environmental topics, it also especially acts as meet up point for people in the film industry, offering workshops and opportunities for filmmakers, media representatives and other cultural creators to get together. Producers and filmmakers have the chance to engage with each other and the public. One of NaturVision’s objectives is to support and promote the genre of nature and environmental film. One strategy for this is Best-Of events assembled from last year’s program, which take place primarily in Switzerland.
Together with Euronatur, natur magazine and Gelsenwasser, NaturVision sponsors the photography competition „Europe’s Natural Treasures“, the results of which are compiled each year in the „Fascination of Nature“ exhibition, which can be seen in various locations.
NaturVision was founded in 2002 by Ralph Thoms and was held annually in the Bavarian Forest National Park in Neuschönau, Germany. Because of the venue’s proximity to the Czech border, the festival has enjoyed a collaboration with the Czech town of Vimperk since its early days.
Already in 2008 – as part of the German-Chinese Year of Science and Education – a collaboration with China was established, and German and Chinese filmmakers interacted for the first time in the workshops of the NaturVision Film Festival.
In 2012 the festival changed locations for financial reasons and was relaunched in Ludwigsburg in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. In the metropolitan area around Stuttgart, it has grown steadily since then and recorded over 13,000 visitors in 2016. The festival venue is the Central Theater Ludwigsburg, but the extensive supporting programme is spread over the whole city – from the open-air cinema in Arsenalplatz to the NaturVision Science Slam, which took place in the Film Gallery of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in 2015.
The Bavarian Forest, meanwhile, is home to the NaturVision Film Days, which have been held in the Hans-Eisenmann-Haus in Neuschönau since 2012. Here, as well as the highlights of the Ludwigsburg festival, visitors can enjoy films that are of special interest for the region in the HeimatSachen series. What makes the Film Days so special is the location’s proximity to nature, with films about nature being presented in nature – or rather, in an open-air cinema set up in the forest. NaturVision’s youth environmental education efforts continue in the Bavarian Forest, with the ideas competition „Educational film: Naturally!“ organised jointly with Bayernwerk AG, and a school programme before and during the contest inviting pupils to find out more about the environment and sustainability.
Patron of the NaturVision Film Festival for the last two years has been Baden-Württemberg’s premier Winfried Kretschmann (of political party Alliance ’90/The Greens). For him the main focus of NaturVision is educating people about the environment:
“The nature film festival NaturVision in Ludwigsburg marks an important intersection between media and environmental education. This is where passion for film and nature meet.” – Winfried Kretschmann
Another champion of the festival is German actor Andreas Hoppe, best known for his role as a police inspector in the popular TV crime series Tatort. He campaigns for animal welfare and the use of regional foods. Another celebrity guest and supporter of the festival is actor Hannes Jaenicke, whose production „Hannes Jaenicke in Action for ….“ was awarded the first „NaturVision Film Festival Special Prize“ in 2014.
Three Germany based media outlets have been the official presenters of the festival since 2015: the German subsidiary of Discovery Channel, the German-French culture channel arte and Ludwigsburg’s local newspaper Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung.