Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Wild & Scenic films explore matters of environmental justice, and last weeked was their 15th annual festival which showcased 140 feature films, nature documentaries, adventure flicks, and eco-centric shorts.

The four-day-long event—sponsored by national brands including Clif Bar, Patagonia, Sierra Nevada, Earthjustice, Orion magazine, Klean Kanteen, and Barefoot Wine—drew thousands to its venues, workshops, and events, which featured speeches from the likes of environmental poet Gary Snyder and activist/artist Tom Killion. The winning films, vetted by a jury of esteemed conservationists, activists, and reviewers, make for worthy additions to any greenie’s “must watch” list for 2017.

The jury presented its Student Filmmaker Award to Roshan Patel, an MFA candidate and the creator of Red Wolf Revival—a vivid short documenting a historic wild red wolf recovery effort in eastern North Carolina.

Honorable mentions  went to three films: Douglas Tompkins: A Wild Legacy, a tribute to the renowned adventurer (and The North Face co-founder) who was tragically killed in a Patagonian kayaking accident in late 2015; The Good Mind, a stirring, hour-long documentary about the tireless environmental advocacy of New York State’s Onondaga Nation, an indigenous sovereign nation that has never accepted U.S. citizenship, and whose leaders shared prophesies about climate change while engaged in a landmark battle with the federal government over ancestral land (the Onondagas won, citing violation of a 1794 treaty with George Washington); and Pickle, a morbidly funny 15-minute ode to a late fish who never learned to swim and a celebration of humankind’s capacity to care for all the earth’s creatures.

Two beautiful films fetched Jurors’ Choice awards: Boone, a feature-length experimental documentary, told sans interviews but rather in “sensual homage” style, about young goat farmers who develop a deep relationship with their land; and In Pursuit of Silence, an artful and meditative exploration of our relationship with silence and sound and the impact of noise on our lives, which is set to hit U.S. theaters in 10 cities next month.

Best Short went to Pangolin, a 13-minute reveal of the journey and afterlife of one among the world’s most illegally trafficked mammals—since the moment it’s poached from the wild to when it’s smuggled to its final destination in China. The documentarians behind Elk River, about the migration of elk in Yellowstone, took home the Most Exciting Adventure Film award; Best in Theme, awarded according to this year’s festival theme—On the Edge—went to Fractured Land, which details the plight of Caleb Behn, a young First Nations lawyer in Canada tasked with reconciling his people’s need for jobs with what he sees as his sacred duty to defend their territory from some of the world’s largest fracking operations. For that film most embodying the Spirit of Activism, jurors selected Can You Dig This?, an energizing work about the unlikely urban gardening movement taking root in South L.A.

The most prestigious Wild & Scenic award went to The Islands and the Whales, a feature-length investigation into the plight of Faroe Islanders—who have long harvested the sea for sustenance—as they come to grips with the fact that today’s polluted oceans contaminate and toxify their beloved whales.

Wild & Scenic films are already en route to Huntsville, Alabama, Berlin, and Pocatello, Idaho. Find the full touring schedule here. Here’s some more information on how to apply to host a leg of tour.

Source: Sierra Club’s Green Life Magazine.

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