IFFF to let toxins, ideas seep in

With “fracking” and water resource pollution a hot topic in the state of Illinois, University of Illinois professor May Berenbaum and the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) remind us of above-ground concerns as the subject of pesticides figures prominently in the 31st annual Insect Fear Film Festival. The popular, quirky, and educational event that has been “scaring the general public with horrific films and horrific filmmaking since 1984” returns to the UI Foellinger Auditorium on the Main Quad in Urbana tonight, Saturday, February 22!

Features set to fumigate Foellinger include the Gene Autry cowboy programmer RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING PINES (1949), the plot of which involves use of the now-banned synthetic agent DDT on an invasive moth population, and the pre-Syfy, Sci-Fi Channel presentation LOCUSTS: THE 8th PLAGUE (2005) featuring Dan Cortese, David Keith, Julie Benz, and Jeff Fahey in an experiment-gone-awry story about a genetically mutated locust swarm intended to take the place of chemicals in protecting crops. The program also includes vintage Mickey Mouse and Pink Panther cartoons as well as a pair of brief pro-DDT industrials from the Atomic Era.

A primary thread in this year’s Insect Fear is to illustrate changing perceptions towards the use of such agents during the past century-and-a-half, according to this UI News Bureau press release from February 14. (We’re pretty certain it’s absolute coincidence they elected to talk toxicity on Valentine’s Day. We think.) In the release, Berenbaum discusses how chemical sprays such as DDT were once considered “miracle substance[s]” until their misuse begot the development of long-term health issues in plants, animals, people, and the earth. She also touches upon the current practice of adding substances to seeds before planting, warning that “[y]ou should never treat a problem that isn’t there, because that’s a mechanism that raises the possibility that pests will develop resistance [over time].”

Doors will open at 6 p.m., allowing guests to interact with EGSA students and their live menagerie of six-, eight-, and gajillion-legged friends in the Foellinger foyer. The traditional mix of mounted specimens, fact displays, children’s artwork, and craft areas will also be present, with films commencing in the auditorium at 7 p.m. As always, the Insect Fear Film Festival is free admission and fun for all!

Well, fun except for the very thought of man-made substances and anarchistic insects coming back to mangle the planet, as depicted in the 2014 t-shirt design shown below. But, we know you’re hearing us.

~ Jason Pankoke


Schedule of Events

6 p.m. Doors open to public
7 p.m. Introduction to the program
7:30 p.m. Mickey Mouse and DDT shorts
8:55 p.m. Pink Panther short

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