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The Environmental Film Festival isn’t exclusively about hugging trees and saving sea turtles. For its 20th anniversary, the fest has broadened its umbrella quite a bit, adding films about health and social issues to its usual repertoire. Two of today’s offerings are most unusual for the festival, particularly 5X Favela: Now By Ourselves, a collection of five vignettes about life in Rio de Janeiro’s slums. More compelling, however, is The Greater Good (pictured), a devastating if somewhat lopsided look at vaccines and whether they harm more than they help our children. Particularly under fire in Kendall Nelson and Chris Pilaro’s documentary is Gardasil, a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) that was fast-tracked to approval by the FDA and has been heavily advertised as a must-have shot for young girls to help protect them against cervical cancer. The face of the controversy is Gabi, a 15-year-old who saw the commercials and insisted that she get it. She did, and afterward the honor-roll cheerleader started having strokes and seizures, had to go on 40-some meds, and is often so tired she must use a wheelchair to get around her school. Gabi’s story is heartbreaking, and unfortunately hers is not the only—nor the worst—one.
The film shows at 6:30 p.m. at Family Health International, 1927 Florida Ave. NW. Free. The Environmental Film Festival runs March 13–25 at various venues. dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org.