Eleonora Isunza, founder of Cinema Planeta



When speaking of Cuernavaca, Morelos, the first thing that might come to mind is “The City of Eternal Spring,” a weekend getaway for the VIPs escaping the bustle of Mexico’s capital and other nearby states. However, about two years ago Cuernavaca became synonymous with Cinema Planeta (https://cinemaplaneta.org/). This film festival promotes the protection of our environment; for the past 11 years, it has positioned itself as the most important event of its kind in Latin America and one of the top five in the world.


Every year, Cinema Planeta organizes a film festival that includes screenings, film clubs, open-air movie presentations, and the latest in cine en tu plato, a fusion of film and fine dining, in addition to concerts, conferences, workshops, and bike rides. Of course, it also includes the production of environmental films and tours around Mexico and beyond to extend environmental education through art. To date, Cinema Planeta has reached 27 states in the Republic of Mexico and three South American countries: Argentina, Ecuador, and Chile.


In Cuernavaca alone, it has served 22 thousand elementary and middle school students per year. These youngsters have already transformed their facilities into Plastic Free Schools and are currently enthusiastic volunteers in every festival. Another example of the impact Cinema Planeta has had is with the community of Luciérnagas, or Fireflies: responders and volunteers who engage in pro-environment activities throughout the year. 


Who is behind the Cinema Planeta?


The daughter of an architect and a journalist-historian—both professors—Eleanora Isunza was a restless, curious student with a keen intellect and a heart that overflowed with concern for her fellow man. When she was 11, she left Mexico City and returned to the state of Morelos, where her family had been living for five generations. From Cuernavaca, she is now connected—and connecting us—to the world. And in this last edition, she’s connects with the universe itself.


Eleanora has a master’s degree in social and mass recreation and is the free time administrator for the YMCA. She specializes in creating unusual methods to mix options for the positive use of leisure time. For example, this past May 24, Eleanora launched a platform to generate Space VJs using the sounds and images of ultra-outer space from NASA. The work was edited by Mexican youths and set to music by Austrian teens, then projected for free to an international and diverse public at the Cri-Cri Park in Cuernavaca, Morelos. For that event alone, she worked with the UNIS Vienna (United Nations Information Service), the Austrian Cultural Forum, and the Immersion Laboratory of the Center for Digital Culture, in addition to various universities and festivals from around the world.


“As a child, I knew that everything is learned… And I wanted to learn everything,” she shared. Eleanora knew in her childhood that actions have consequences, and you learn from each one, whether good or bad. “Everything was very educational in my home,” she mused. Perhaps because of this, Eleanora understands children and youths so well when it comes to the environment. “We can’t drop on their shoulders the future of the planet we have destroyed,” she said. It’s through the films and the many activities of the Festival that Eleanora seeks to spark in these youngsters the anger needed to provoke action: “An angry child is a marvelous thing,” she said, “because you give them what they need and they come up with amazing solutions.”


Gustavo Ballester co-founded Cinema Planeta with Eleonora. It’s no surprise they both received the 2010 Nature Conservation Recognition granted to the media by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico (CONANP), as well as the XXII “Miguel Alemán Valdés” Ecology and Environment Award granted by the Miguel Alemán Foundation in 2017.


Eleonora, what can we expect for the twelfth edition?


“Cinema Planeta 2020 will be held from April 21 to 26. This year the theme is outer space—we lived for a year among astronauts, space stations, lunar voyages, explorations to Mars, the discovery of new galaxies, and light cascades created by the inertia of black holes. We experimented with the infinite immensity of what’s out there so we could realize how happy we are traveling on this marvelous and perfect blue marble we call Earth. Cinema Planeta 2020 now returns from the macro to the micro so we can explore the powerful feeling of being an Earthling. We will dedicate our next edition to the micro, to all the elements that make life possible here on Earth.”


We thank Eleanora Isunza for her enthusiasm and dedication, for giving us one more reason to visit Cuernavaca, Morelos, and, of course, for welcoming Meetings Alliance to her Cinema Planeta. 

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