Insect Fear Film Festival
By: Logan Hodson
The Insect Fear Film Festival was hosted last Saturday at Foelinger auditorium showing movies and activities all based around entomology or the study of insects. The annual event was hosted by the Entomology Graduate Students Association but has been in the department for much longer. The festivals creator and head of the U of I's entomology department, May Berenbaum, even came on Good Morning Illini to talk with us about what exactly was going to happen at this event. You can check out that segment above, but to sum it all up the festival was about insects.
The event consisted of the screening of two bug related films, "Monster that Challenged the World" and "Joe's Apartment", as well as a selection of shorts and episodes of the web series "Pike's Lagoon". The movies shown were selected by the event organizers hoping to showcase this years theme "Living Fossil" arthropods, the most famous of which is the horseshoe crab an arthropod that has been around for four hundred million years. There was also a bug petting zoo involved, when asked about specifics Berenbaum explained,
"Well to be accurate it's a multiple arthropod petting zoo, we're not restricting ourselves to just insects which have six legs and three body parts. We'll also have crustaceans and arachnids"
Berenbaum explained that she got the idea for the film festival while attending Cornell University. She walked by a flier for a "Godzilla Festival" put on by the Asian American Association and figured if they could have a sense of humor bout an aspect of their identity then why couldn't entomologists. The idea was initially pitched to the entomology head at Cornell who suggested instead showing off insect documentaries, which wasn't what Berenbaum had in mind. After, waiting and coming to the University of Illinois in 1980.
After a few years working as an assistant professor and building up her reputation as a respected scientist she tried to pitch the idea to the then current head of the entomology department, who thought the idea sounded great and the Insect Fear Film Festival was born.
According to the festivals website the idea is to showcase films about insects and dispel the common fear around insects and other creatures like them. For the entomology department it's what they do on the daily, and with this expertise hope to help the campus community grow and learn.
"Hollywood has shown no inclination to stop producing bad insect science fiction films either; while the effects certainly are getting better, the biology is not. As long as they keep disseminating disinformation about the most misunderstood taxon on the planet, we have an obligation to counter with the truth about insects," explains the Entomology Graduate Student Association when recounting the festivals history on their website.
Forty years later the festival is still going strong, being the first celebration of insects on a college campus. Many college campuses have since adopted a format of celebration around their professions including other entomology departments but Berenbaum's festival holds the distinction of being the first.
We also got to ask Professor Berenbaum what her opinion on arachnids was. Being an entomologist we should have been able to guess,
"I'm not a fan but I don't have to be they have eight legs not six... a lot of entomologists actually aren't that fond of arachnids, but fear stems from ignorance so at least we know about them."
Professor Berenbaum continues as head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois and plans to continue the festival during her time here. The Entomology Graduate Student Organization continues to host other insect centric events across campus. Both, continue to educate the community on these small but often misunderstood creatures.