Starting March 15th and extending through March 25th, the Environmental Film Festival brings over 100 films that celebrate Earth and inspire stewardship of the environment to metropolitan DC. This fest is the largest environmentally theme film festival in the world, which in itself is exciting for those in the area who love animals, nature, and the world we all share.
The DCEFF also hands out $30,000 in rewards. This year, THE GAME CHANGERS will be awarded the Shared Earth Foundation Award for Advocacy; SILAS will receive the William W. Warner Beautiful Swimmers Award; FIVE SEASONS: THE GARDENS OF PIET OUDOLF will be awarded the Polly Krakora Award for Artistry in Film; and WATER WARRIORS will receive the Eric Moe Award for Best Short on Sustainability. Each award will be presented following a screening of the winning film. Representatives from each film will be on hand to accept the award and will participate in a special audience Q&A.
The festival is also spread out across the area, with locations as diverse as The Kennedy Center, The French, Japanese, and Finnish Embassies, the E Street Cinema, the National Geographic Society, a number of museums, and many other interesting venues.
I spoke to Executive Director Maryann Culpeper, who is also an award-wining writer-director of documentaries and nonfiction series, and asked her what is getting her excited about this year’s fest, and what potential attendees might want to know:
Cinema Siren: This festival has a lot of free events and shows and as well as educational component. Can you talk about the festival’s commitment to that, and about some of the programming about which you are particularly excited?
Maryann Culpepper: We started twenty six years ago, and the mission has always been to inspire people to care about the planet. I realize that can sound high-minded but that’s what it is. So we want to get these films out to as many people as possible and in as many situations as possible. Whenever we can we make the screenings free or as inexpensive as possible. We really want all the people of the Washington area, all eight wards of DC, and people from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, to be able to see whatever they can and be inspired. Education is really important to us, too, because it’s wonderful to learn about the polar bears when you’re forty, but nothing will make you more committed to them longterm more than if you learn about them when you’re eight and you emotionally connect to them. SO we also want to introduce kids to the environment and inspire them to want to do things and get involved. We just had a major screening for DC school kids last week of a film called Chasing Coral. We went into the schools with VR headsets and literally had them, many of them who had never been to the ocean, virtually diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It is a big commitment for us. Some festivals are industry festivals, ours is a different kind of festival. Our job is to really get the word out about the environment and to tell those stories. We are very targeted on, not so much driving ticket sales, but just getting people who love the world we live in and know how important it is to see the movies that tell those stories.
CS: I think some potential attendees might think all the films center around the dire current state of the environment and potential disaster in the future. But there are some very beautiful films that celebrate nature as well in the festival. Can you talk about the balance of the kinds of films people can expect to find represented?
MC: One of the things that’s important to us is to base our festival in the fact that we all human beings and we all live in our environment, and with that in mind, we are all environmentalists. Now, we may come at it from very different perspectives and political positions. You may not that interested in fracking or climate change, but you really love elephants or adventure. We try to come up with a slate of films that crosses the gamut and appeals to just about every interest. We do documentaries, narrative, animation, and shorts, and so in terms of format, we have a large scope of what we have for our festival attendees, but we do have do have adventure films. We have an incredible movie premiering here called “Chasing the Thunder” which is this dramatic ten thousand mile sea chase across three oceans to catch poachers. It’s like a Tom Clancy novel. You couldn’t make this up! It has you riveted to the edge of your seat. We have a movie about mountain climbing, because of course climbers are very concerned about melting glaciers and what’s happening to the environment. We have films about animals and about our connection with nature…there’s a wonderful film called Five Seasons about Piet Oudolf, (https://dceff.org/film/five-seasons/) one of the most famous landscape architects in the world, and it’s all about gardening. Something else that’s always very popular is birds, so we always have something about them and this year we have a number of films including the movie Bird of Prey which is about world renowned cinematographer Neil Rettig and his passion for saving the Philippine Eagle. It’s really incredible, we also have lots of films about food, and this year we have Anthony Bourdain’s film called Wasted, which is about the waste of food around the world and how we could feed everyone if we just solved that problem. I’m also really excited about the film The Colorado, which will be screened in cooperation with The Kennedy Center. It’s got a great score and this year, the orchestra is going to perform it live with that film, so that’s a different kind of experience a lot of people will enjoy. I really could go on and on because our schedule is so full of great offerings.
Another high profile movie is our award winner The Game Changers, (https://dceff.org/film/game-changers/) which is the closing night event, and is executive produced by James Cameron. Louie Psihoyos, who did The Cove and Racing to Extinction, is the director. There’s really something for everyone. Some people want action and adventure, some want something lyrical and beautiful, some want hard hitting journalism, but it’s all there. We have something to appeal to all styles and tastes, and on a very wide variety of topics.
CS: Founder Flo Stone has walked the walk of female inclusion from the day the festival was created. I know there has been a concerted effort to be inclusive in the selection of films. For example, in 2016, over 60% of the films were made by women. For those who believe parity is essential to the future of film, the DCEFF is definitely a festival women who support women and diversity in film should have on their radar.
MC: That’s the interesting thing. We all live on this planet and the environment is colorblind. It really doesn’t care about gender or orientation or color. You are either helping or you’re not. We go out looking for the best films. We have open submissions and we encourage that. We got about 700 films this year. We also go out to festivals not only in the US, but worldwide looking for the best films. We don’t care what color or gender that filmmaker is. We have been very fortunate and that is one of those things that we have flagged in our festival guide (in the Washington Post Express) we have noted where there’s a female filmmaker. There are many of them part of our program. We also look to work with minority filmmakers, whether they are African-American, Latinx, and sometimes they are African or Indian, because they are coming from those countries. We are bringing in rangers this time as part of our theme “Stories from the Frontlines”, and they are coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other African countries, and they are people of color fighting the good fight saving endangered animals from extinction and working against poaching. One of the films we are showing is called The Guardians, by local filmmakers, and it’s about Mexico where people are protecting the old growth trees that are the birthing ground of the Monarch butterflies. (https://dceff.org/film/guardians/) So either by topic, or subject, or filmmaker, we look for a diversity that brings you a whole picture of what’s happening, not just here, but what’s happening in countries all over the world. It’s that perspective that helps us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and that’s so important.
I’ve spent my entire career in filmmaking, and as I think about it, I’ve worked equally with men and women. I think the people who are dedicated to telling these stories just want to tell these stories. They represent the earth, so it is right that is should accurately reflect the men and women living together on our planet.
Below is a listing of all the currently scheduled programs, but FOR (OFTEN FREE) TICKETS, everything you need to know, and an informative website that features some great full-length films, go to https://dceff.org
DCEFF 2018 PROGRAM
OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Thursday, March 15
THE LAST ANIMALS: DIR Kate Brooks. USA/UK. The Last Animals is a story about an extraordinary group of people who go to incredible lengths to save the planet’s last animals. The documentary follows the conservationists, scientists and activists battling poachers and transnational trafficking syndicates to protect elephants and rhinos from extinction. D.C. Premiere.
CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Saturday, March 24
THE GAME CHANGERS: DIR Louie Psihoyos. USA. Directed by Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by James Cameron, The Game Changers tells the story of James Wilks —elite special forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter —as he travels the world on a quest for the truth behind the world’s most dangerous myth: that meat is necessary for protein, strength and optimal health. Meeting elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his relationship with food and his definition of true strength. D.C. Premiere.
FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS
A BEAUTIFUL STAR: DIR Dailachi Yoshida. Japan. A Beautiful Star portrays a family on Earth who comes to believe that they are actually from other planets. They try to save the endangered planet Earth, but things get crazy on the way. D.C. Premiere.
ALBATROSS: DIR Chris Jordan. USA. Albatross is a compelling visual journey into the heart of a gut-wrenching environmental tragedy. On one of the most remote islands on Earth, tens of thousands of albatross chicks lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic. The film crew witnessed cycles of birth, life, and death of these magnificent creatures as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. D.C. Premiere.
AMA-SAN: DIR Cláudia Varejão. Portugal. For more than 2000 years the Ama-San dived in Japan. Bound by sisterhood, women are the primary source of income, and are essential to their families having carved out a rare space of respect for themselves by diving in the Pacific Ocean with no aid from air tanks for underwater breathing. D.C. Premiere.
ATLANTIC SALMON – LOST AT SEA: DIR Deirdre Brennan. USA/Ireland. Despite conservation efforts worldwide, populations continue to fall for Atlantic Salmon. For the first time, using the latest DNA technology, scientists can track the salmon from the rivers, through the estuaries, and into the vast North Atlantic and back again, in hopes of finding an answer before it is too late. Narrated by Gabriel Byrne. D.C. Premiere.
ATOMIC HOMEFRONT: DIR Rebecca Cammisa. USA. Atomic Homefront reveals St. Louis, Missouri’s past as a uranium processing center for the atomic bomb and the governmental and corporate negligence that led to the illegal dumping of Manhattan Project radioactive waste throughout North County neighborhoods. The film is a case study of how citizens are confronting state and federal agencies to uncover the truth about the extent of the contamination and are fighting to keep their families safe.
BACKYARD WILDERNESS: DIR Susan Todd and Andrew Young. USA. Backyard Wilderness reveals that nature is much closer than we think. Following the seasons in one backyard, we are transported inside dens and nests and in ponds that uncover the creatures within. We are reminded that Wi-Fi isn’t the only connection that matters and that in ordinary places, we can discover extraordinary things – if we just step outside. World Premiere. *Family-friendly
BEARTREK: DIR Chris Morgan and Joe Pontecorvo. USA. A conservation story wrapped in an adventure with renowned biologist, Chris Morgan, on an epic and entertaining journey to find the world’s most elusive and endangered bears. Discover the threats facing them in the wild, and meet the dedicated people racing to save them from extinction, and join the campaign to protect bears and their habitat. D.C. Premiere. *Family-friendly
BENDING THE ARC: DIR Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos. USA. Dr. Paul Farmer, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, activist Ophelia Dahl, Todd McCormack, and investor Thomas White began a movement in the 1980s in a rural Haitian village that grew into a global health battle. Together we can change the trajectory of the world, bending the arc of the universe forever.
BIRD OF PREY: DIR Eric Liner. USA. Fewer than 800 Philippine Eagles exist in the world and can be found only in the Philippines. Today the future of these iconic raptors, and of an untold number of other species is tied to the fate of the Philippines’ last fragments of old-growth forest. Bird of Prey explores the vanishing world of the Great Philippine Eagle to save it from extinction. D.C. Premiere.
BLUE: DIR Karina Holden. Australia. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Blue is a provocative journey into the ocean realm, witnessing a critical moment in time when the marine world is on a precipice. D.C. Premiere.
CACÚ: UN CAMBIO POR LA VIDA: DIR Marvin del Cid. Dominican Republic. This is the story of five fishermen from Manresa, a poor neighborhood to the West of Santo Domingo’s Distrito Nacional, and how they transitioned from sea turtle nest predators to conservationists of the species. Over four years this transformative process was documented by marine biologist Omar Shamir Reynoso, who implemented a one-of-a-kind plan in the Dominican Republic that involves fishermen and communities alike in conservation efforts. U.S. Premiere.
CHASING CORAL: DIR Jeff Orlowski. USA. Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. *Family-friendly
CITY OF THE SUN: DIR Rati Oneli. Georgia. A Soviet architectural and technological achievement now, the semi-abandoned mining town of Chiatura once produced 50% of the world’s manganese employed up to 10,000 workers. Today, with drastically reduced manganese production, dangerous working conditions, and little prospect for any improvement, it is well on its way to becoming a ghost town. D.C. Premiere.
COYOTE: THE MIKE PLANT STORY: DIR Thomas Simmons. USA. Chronically underfunded and undermanned, sailor Mike Plant’s thirst for adventure and the fearless belief in his dreams drive him to become an American hero of the sea. The film follows Plant’s daring spirit as he challenges both Mother Nature, around the world alone on a sailboat, and French dominance in the sport. D.C. Premiere.
DIRTBAG: THE LEGEND OF FRED BECKEY: DIR Dave O’Leske. USA. Fred Beckey is the legendary American “Dirtbag” mountaineer whose name is spoken in hushed tones around campfires. This rebel climber’s pioneering ascents and lifestyle form an iconic legacy that continues to inspire generations. D.C. Premiere.
DISPATCHES FROM THE GULF 2: DIR Hal Weiner and Marilyn Weiner. USA. Experience remarkable stories from the unprecedented scientific mission to comprehensively study the environmental impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and find new ways to ease the devastation. Dispatches From The Gulf 2 follow-up to the Emmy® Award-winning film Dispatches from the Gulf. Narrated by Matt Damon. World Premiere.
DONKEYOTE: DIR Chico Pereira. Spain. Spaniard, Manolo decides to plan one last walk by re-tracing the Trail of Tears, a brutal forced 2200-mile trek through the Native American Cherokee Nation, with his favorite walking companions, his donkey, Gorrión and his dog, Zafrana. After arriving in America, despite Manolo’s chronic arthritis, a history of heart attacks, and Gorrión’s fear of water. Manolo discovers a delicate equilibrium, man, and beast intrepidly braving the harsh landscape together.
DUSK CHORUS: DIR Nika Šaravanja, Alessandro d’ Emilia and David Monacchi. Italy. Eco-acoustic composer David Monacchi’s quest to record pure continuous 24-hour 3D soundscapes in the area with the world’s highest biodiversity in Yasunì, Ecuador’s remote primary forests with a unique listening experience of fragments of the disappearing sonic heritage of millions of years of evolution. D.C. Premiere.
EVOLUTION OF ORGANIC: DIR Mark Kitchell. USA. A motley crew of back-to-the-landers, spiritual seekers, and farmers’ sons and daughters reject chemical farming and set out to explore organic alternatives. It’s a heartfelt journey of cultural transformation in the way we grow and eat food. Organic is now mainstream – split into an industry-oriented toward sustainable agriculture. Narrated by Frances McDormand.
EXPERIMENTAL CITY: DIR Chad Freidrichs. USA. A visionary scientist, alarmed by the growing environmental crisis in 1960s America, designs a domed metropolis with futuristic technology and innovation that eradicates pollution and waste of the modern city. Technological optimism and new environmentalism collide. D.C. Premiere.
FIRE CHASERS: DIR Molly Mayock. USA. Plunge daringly and intimately into the world of wildfires and the global ramifications to the earnest and emotional personal stories hidden behind the smoke. Fire Chasers is a Netflix Original Documentary produced by Appian Way, Stone Village Television, and Original Productions. Episodes 1 & 2. D.C. Premiere.
GENERATION ON THE WIND: DIR David Vassar. USA. In 1978, as the price of oil soars and domestic reserves plummet, young artists, mechanics, and environmental activists set out to build the largest electrical generating windmill in the world. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences funded the restoration of this documentary.
GLADESMEN: THE LAST OF THE SAWGRASS COWBOYS: DIR David Abel. USA. Feature length documentary about the government’s ban on Florida’s iconic airboats in much of the Everglade largest effort to repair a damaged ecosystem, there is a vast river of grass that has been ravaged by more than a century of development, pollution, and other environmental degradation. D.C. Premiere.
HOT GREASE: DIR Sam Wainwright Douglas, Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson. USA. Set in Houston, Texas, the energy capital of the world is the surprising story of how kitchen grease is opening a new green energy frontier. It is a modern-day gold rush that could yield billions of dollars in profits for the industry’s evangelists. D.C. Premiere.
HUMAN FLOW: DIR Ai Weiwei. Germany. Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change, and war in the most horrific human displacement since World War II. Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.
IN THE HILLS AND HOLLOWS: DIR Keeley Kernan. USA. Take an intimate look at the lives of several West Virginia residents in the middle a massive natural gas boom and how this industry forever changes their quality and way of life. The film also explores the lives of residents who have left their home and the place they love, as a result of the growth and development of the fracking industry. D.C. Premiere.
INTO THE AMAZON: DIR John Maggio. USA. This is the remarkable journey taken by President Theodore Roosevelt and legendary Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon into the heart of the South American rainforest to chart an unexplored tributary of the Amazon in 1914. D.C. Premiere.
LAWS OF THE LIZARD: DIR Nathan Dappen and Neil Losin. USA. A thirty-year quest to discover nature’s rulebook and an unassuming creature: a six-inch lizard called an anole that might hold the key to understanding the past, present, and future of life on Earth. World Premiere. *Family-friendly
LITTLE YELLOW BOOTS: DIR John Webster. Finland. A cinematic letter to a future great-grandchild weaves together past, present and future into a beautiful, moving and hopeful documentary film about the power of each of us to make a difference in the world. U.S. Premiere. *Family-friendly
LOVE & BANANAS: DIR Ashley Bell. USA. Ashley Bell and a team of elephant rescuers, led by world-renowned elephant conversationalist Lek Chailert, embark on a daring 48-hour mission across Thailand to rescue a captive Asian elephant from a trekking camp and set her free. Love & Bananas will hopefully provide a solution to keeping this species alive. World Premiere.
MAKALA: DIR Emmanuel Gras. France. A young man from a village in the Congo hopes to offer his family a better future. His only resources are his two hands, the surrounding bush, and an iron will. When he sets out on an exhausting, perilous journey to sell the fruit of his labor, he discovers the true value of his efforts and the price of his dreams. D.C. Premiere.
MEGASTRUCTURES: GARDENS BY THE BAY: DIR Donovan Chan. Netherlands. Gardens by the Bay is an ambitious project set to transform Singapore into one of the greenest cities on earth. A flat piece of reclaimed land was transformed into Singapore’s largest park, challenging not only the designers, but also engineers who must create a raft of new green technologies. Produced by Singapore-based Beach House Pictures for National Geographic Society.
MIND OF A GIANT: DIR Emre Izat and Geoff Luck. Netherlands. Revolutionary new research reveals what it is like to be an elephant. As scientists struggle to count Africa’s elephants, they discover intriguing new behavior. In order to survive their current crisis, the elephants are learning. We are discovering that elephants must be considered one of the most clever and complex creatures on the planet. They have self-awareness, can co-operate and pass on information, and adapt to solve problems in ways we never knew.
MOUNTAIN: DIR Jennifer Peedom. Australia. Mountain is a cinematic and musical collaboration between acclaimed director Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), one of the greatest chamber orchestras in the world. Mountain will look at the troubled and triumphant history of our timeless fascination with mountains…a juxtaposition of image and music to explore the powerful force that mountains hold over the imagination of so many. From Antarctica to Hawaii, the canvas for Mountain is immense.
NO MAN’S LAND: DIR David Byars. USA. On January 2, 2016, armed protestors led by the militant Ammon Bundy occupied the headquarters Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Southeastern Oregon to challenge the U.S. Government’s right to manage public land. The FBI and the Oregon State Police took Bundy into custody on 26 January, the standoff continued for another two weeks as a small group continued. No Man’s Land is story of those on the inside of this militia movement, attempting to uncover what draws some Americans to the edge of revolution.
PLANET POWER: DIR Pascal Vuong and Ronan Chapalain. France. This is a story of pioneers, scientists and inventors, one that began 200 years ago, driven by innovation. Electricity is also the energy of our future as long as it is produced in a cleaner and more sustainable way. Thanks to clean technologies, the greatest forces of nature can help make our planet cooler and our future better. *Family-friendly
RANGER AND LEOPARD: DIR Fathollah Amiri and Nima Asgar. Iran. Halvani’, a dedicated ranger, hears about the presence of a Persian Leopard in an area under his protection in Isfahan, Iran. Nobody has spotted any Persian Leopard there for about forty years, Halvani’ suspects that there are traces of Persian Leopard and is on a quest to find them. D.C. Premiere.
RAT FILM: DIR Theo Anthony. USA. Across walls, fences, and alleys, rats not only expose our boundaries of separation, but also make homes in them. Rat Film is a feature-length documentary that uses the rat, as well as the humans that love them, live with them, and kill them to explore the history of Baltimore. There’s never been a rat problem in Baltimore; it’s always been a people problem. D.C. Premiere.
RODENTS OF UNUSUAL SIZE: DIR Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer. USA. After decades of hurricanes and oil spills, Louisiana fisherman Thomas Gonzales faces a new threat – hordes of monstrous twenty-pound swamp rats know as nutria. These invasive South American rodents have unusual orange teeth and a voracious appetite; they eat up the coastal wetlands that protect the Delacroix Island from hurricanes. Thomas and a pack of lively bounty hunters are hell-bent on saving Louisiana before it dissolves beneath their feet. D.C. Premiere.
TATRA MOUNTAINS – LIFE ON THE EDGE: DIR Erik Baláž. Slovakia. The Tatra Mountains loom far above the clouds – the smallest high mountain range on earth. Some species have thrived here since the ice age: chamois are well equipped for the harsh climate. Marmots, meanwhile, spend more than half the year asleep. Red deer and bears repopulated the region after the end of the ice age. Since then, they’ve tried to master the various challenges of this mountainous world. World Premiere.
THANK YOU FOR THE RAIN: DIR Julia Dahr. Norway. Over the last five years Kisilu, a smallholder farmer in Kenya has used his camera to capture the life of his family, his village and the impacts of climate change. He has filmed floods, droughts and storms but also the more human costs – his kids are sent home from school when he can’t pay the fees; men are moving to towns in search for jobs; and family tensions rise. Following a storm that destroys his house, Kisilu starts building a community movement of farmers fighting the impacts of extreme weather and he takes this message of hope all the way to the UN Climate Talks, in Paris, COP21. D.C. Premiere.
THE CHOCOLATE CASE: DIR Benthe Forrer. Netherlands. The Chocolate Case is the incredible journey of three Dutch journalists, who tried to persuade large corporations to end the use of child labor in the chocolate industry, but when rebuffed, decides to take matters into their own hands by creating the world’s first slave-free chocolate bar. D.C. Premiere.
THE COLORADO: DIR Murat Eyuboglu. USA. For five million years the Colorado River has carved some of the most majestic landscapes on the planet. It has also become the lifeline of a vast portion of North America, providing the water that sustains nearly forty million people, half a dozen major cities, and an immense agricultural empire. The Colorado journeys through the prehistoric settlement of the region, the period of European exploration, the dam-building era, modern industrial agriculture and immigration, and the impacts of climate change.
THE FARTHEST: DIR Emer Reynolds. USA. NASA’s epic Voyager mission, launched in 1977, revolutionized our understanding of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their dazzling moons and rings. In 2012, Voyager 1 left our solar system and ushered humanity into the interstellar age.
THE NEW FIRE: DIR David Schumacher. USA. The good news – there’s a new solution to climate change. The bad news – we may not like it. From MIT to Silicon Valley, young engineers are rebooting a controversial and all but abandoned technology – nuclear power. D.C. Premiere.
THE RIVER’S BED: DIR Mélanie Pitteloud. Switzerland. The river Rhône has been straitjacketed for 150 years, the history of a domination of its course by humans. But the river has not yet been tamed! This engaging and poetic film, shot in the company of inhabitants linked to the future of the Rhône, is a journey that prompts universal questioning of our relationship with nature and territory. U.S. Premiere.
THE SACRIFICE: DIR Andrei Tarkovsky. Sweden. At the dawn of World War III, a man searches for a way to restore peace to the world and finds he must give something in return.
WHAT LIES UPSTREAM: DIR Cullen Hoback. USA. In January 2014 West Virginia citizens notice that a mysterious chemical, MCHM, has leaked into the Elk River, poisoning the drinking-water supply for nearly half of West Virginia.
WOMAN AND THE GLACIER: DIR Audrius Stonys. Lithuania/Estonia. The Lithuanian scientist Aušra Revutaite has spent 30 years in the Tian Shan mountain range straddling the borders between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the autonomous Chinese region of Xinjiang. Some 3,500 meters above sea level with only her faithful dog and gray cat for company, she studies climate change on the Tuyuksu Glacier at an old Soviet-era research station. D.C. Premiere.
SHORT FILM SELECTIONS
A CLIMATE FOR CONFLICT: DIR Nichole Sobecki and Laura Heaton. Somalia. This film interweaves the intimate stories of people living in Somalia and trying to cope with a changing environment: a fisherman starts pirating boats when he can no longer make a living at sea; a camel herder goes to war with neighbors over pasture and water; a farmer joins the extremist group Al-Shabaab when drought becomes too intense. This film is part of a larger project that has been featured in Foreign Policy, ABC News Nightline and National Public Radio.
A STEELHEAD QUEST: PORTRAIT OF A RIVERED LIFE: DIR Sarah Menzies. USA. A steelhead advocate and long-time angler, Terry Myers, spent 2015 in search of a wild steelhead on a different river each month of the year. The film explores the experience of a two-year quest by an unassuming, but determined woman as she tries to unlock the mysteries of catching wild steelhead. With her husband Jerry in tow, we see the challenges they face with depleting runs, while still fully enjoying every aspect of being on the river together – rain or shine, fish or no fish.
ADAPTATION BANGLADESH: SEA LEVEL RISE: DIR Justin DeShields. USA. The “new normal” of global climate change is, generally, a harrowing reality to contemplate. Cultural anthropologist Alizé Carrére helps us see, however, that it does not need to be a reality devoid of hope. In Bangladesh — the most densely populated country in the world and one that will bear a disproportionate share of the impact of global climate change — Carrére shows us the kind of resilience, flexibility and innovation that will be requisite for the survival of our species. D.C. Premiere.
ARISTOLOCHIAS OF HAITI: DIR Eladio Fernandez. Dominican Republic. Eladio Fernandez, Dominican member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, takes us to Haiti on an expedition to find a new species of Aristolochia (pipe vine) and another that had not been seen for 90 years. U.S. Premiere.
BOY-ZSHAN BI-DEN (BUFFALO RETURN): DIR Colin Ruggiero. USA. Thanks to the Shoshone tribe, the National Wildlife Federation, and the coordinated efforts of a host of other individuals and organizations, bison have finally been brought back to the Wind River Indian Reservation and the landscape that they once defined after a 130-year absence. D.C. Premiere.
BREADWINNER: DIR Beth Murphy. Afghanistan. Extremism in Afghanistan, the film highlights the power of girls’ education to address the impacts of climate change. Families grapple with the impacts of drought, some farmers begin growing illegal and extremist-linked opium poppy while others find an unlikely solution to their crisis: educated, working women. This film continues the filmmakers’ commitment to in-depth reporting in Afghanistan where they spent seven years making the feature documentary What Tomorrow Brings, which was an Emmy® nominated PBS/POV series and winner of 2017 Edward R. Murrow, Alfred I. duPont and Overseas Press Club Awards). World Premiere.
CAMERA TRAP: DIR Marty O’Brien. Canada. An aspiring wilderness photographer puts everything on the line in his quest to capture one photo that will help tell the story of the greatest land migration on earth. U.S. Premiere.
CANIS LUPIS COLORADO: DIR Eric Bendick and Thomas Winston. USA. Canis Lupus Colorado is the story of the past, present, and future of Colorado’s now extinct native wolf population. It unfolds through the eyes of Mike Phillips, the world’s foremost expert on wolf restoration, John Emerick, an ecologist and author in Rocky Mountain National Park, photojournalist Morgan Heim, elk hunter David Gann, and lifelong rancher Duke Phillips. Now we’re at a tipping point: the emerging west, the future of our public wildlands, and the health of vast ecosystems are all at stake. D.C. Premiere.
CITY ON THE WATER: DIR Jon Bowermaster. USA. From Brooklyn’s Newtown Creek to Queens’ Flush Meadow, waterways once thought ruined forever by industrial and manmade pollution are making a comeback. From the Billion Oyster Project to Dragon Boat races, from the Gowanus Canal to the Harlem River, there is brand new activity on all of the waterways that surround NYC, making this the cornerstone of our new Hope on the Hudson series.
FISH STORY: DIR Charlie Lyne. UK. A search for the truth behind a fishy tale.
HARBINGER: DIR Sam Sheline. USA. Chytrid is an invasive fungus that swept through Central America, wiping out amphibians. Entire species vanished and the world barely noticed. Luckily Edgardo Griffith and Heidi Ross realized how close Panama’s national animal might be to extinction. They breed dozens of species in captivity, and fight tirelessly for rare amphibians. Featuring Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Sixth Extinction.” World Premiere.
HEART OF THE LAND: DIR Kaisa Astikainen. Finland. A couple runs a small dairy farm in the heart of the Finnish countryside. The work of generations will soon come to its end, as their retirement is approaching and there’s no one left to continue the family tradition – love for the land, the richness of everyday life, and the sadness of letting go. D.C. Premiere.
IDENTIDAD/IDENTITY: DIR Iván Jaripio. Panama. In the struggle to maintain their traditional lands many Indigenous communities are caught between modernization and traditional culture. Must they be at odds? Must the embrace of one eradicate the other?
ILLEGAL ACTIVISTS – THE BATTLE FOR NORWAY’S FJORDS: DIR Julia Dahr and Julie Lunde Lillesæter. Norway. The film follows young activists as they break the law to stop a mining company from dumping 250 million tonnes of waste into a Norwegian fjord. On the top of a freezing, icy mountain, 80 youths chained themselves to mining drills to save the fjord, in what became the biggest civil disobedience action in Norway in 30 years. Norway, which proudly brands itself as a ‘green country’ and whose pristine fjords draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, is the only country in Europe that allows sea dumping of tailings. The film tells an intimate and personal story about a political battle, and why young people decide to break the law for a fjord that’s hundreds of miles away from their home. U.S. Premiere.
LA CUMBRE: DIR Dana Romanoff. USA. La Cumbre unveils the reality of what it means to live as an amputee in the developing world. In partnership with the Range of Motion Project we join world class mountaineer and wounded warrior Chad Jukes on a heartfelt journey to shed light on a public health issue affecting amputees worldwide. D.C. Premiere.
LA PESCA: DIR Pablo Alvarez Mesa. Canada/Columbia. Poetic and sensorial richness, the film captures the gestures of a family of fishermen in Colombia as they weave nets, cook, and play dominoes, all the while waiting for the fish to come so that they can recommence anew. U.S. Premiere.
LECHE Y MIEL: DIR Justin Clifton. USA. Yuma is often thought of as a hot, dry desert town in southwestern Arizona, but for the area residents, and the United States as a whole, it is the land of plenty. During the winter months, nearly all the leafy vegetables Americans eat are grown in the fertile fields, which lie at the literal end of the Colorado River. For the people who work the fields, the Colorado River represents not only the source of their livelihood, but a deep, spiritual connection to this arid landscape as well. Leche y Miel (Milk & Honey) provides a short, beautiful glimpse into the area’s Latino community and their connection to the strained Colorado River. D.C. Premiere.
LIONS OF WEST TEXAS: DIR Ben Masters. USA. Researchers capture a wild mountain lion to put a GPS collar on her in order to study mountain lion prey, home range size, and to get a glimpse into the secretive lives of Texas’ largest apex predator. The data collected only adds to the mystery of how mountain lions continue to persist in West Texas where they can be trapped, shot, and killed without regulation.
MAMMOTH: DIR Grant Slater. USA. In the remote Russian Arctic, an aging scientist and his son are trying to recreate the Ice Age. They call their experiment Pleistocene Park – a perfect home for woolly mammoths, resurrected by modern genetics. But the mammoths are only a means to a bigger end: defusing a carbon time bomb frozen in the permafrost to slow the effects of global warming. D.C. Premiere.
NOBODY LOVES ME: DIR Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman. USA. High in Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains, a large and homely frog once thrived, a species endemic to altitude and cold water named Telmatobius culeus. But over-collecting for human consumption, pollution and predation by introduced species have devastated the Titicaca water frog. In 2016, 10,000 frogs died all at once, and it wasn’t the first mass die-off this critically endangered species has experienced. This short film from The Redford Center shines a new light on these underappreciated animals, showing their amazing adaptability, crucial role in the aquatic ecosystem and what’s at stake — unless humans intervene. D.C. Premiere.
PERSON OF THE FOREST: DIR Melissa Lesh. USA. In the vanishing lowland rainforests of Borneo, research is underway to uncover and understand the unique cultural behaviors in wild orangutans. There, photographer Tim Laman, researcher Cheryl Knott, and young explorer Robert Suro shed new light on the similarities between our ancient ancestors, and us before it’s too late.
PLANTAE: DIR Guilherme G. Acuna Gehr. Brazil. When cutting a big tree deep inside the Amazon jungle, a logger contemplates an unexpected reaction of nature. U.S. Premiere.
RESTORING THE CLEARWATER: DIR Jon Bowermaster. USA. For nearly a year the historic sloop, Clearwater, was out of the water, on land, enduring what wooden boats have historically endured forever: Restoration. Onshore near the Hudson River Maritime Museum on the Rondout Creek in Kingston, swathed in tarps and protective sheets, the nearly 60-year-old wooden boat was carefully mended and updated. Built under the visionary leadership of musician/activist and Hudson River resident Pete Seeger, the Clearwater continues to fulfill the original mission he envisioned, to help educate and share the plight of our local Hudson River environment as it luffs its sails and roams America’s First River. D.C. Premiere.
RETURN FROM DESOLATION: DIR Justin Clifton. USA. Garrett Eaton, an Afghan war vet, oilman, and river guide who has fought his way back from addiction and certain death through the wild serpentine rivers of the American Southwest. While this is a story of renewal, forgiveness and healing, Return from Desolation is also a bridge between what we think we know and the nuance of what it means to be human in a complex society. Through Garrett’s experience, we see the importance of wild, public landscapes to help us all find our way home. D.C. Premiere.
SHAASH JAA / BEARS EARS: DIR Angelo Baca. USA. Shásh Jaa’ (Bears Ears) is 1.9 million acres of Utah wilderness considered sacred lands to many indigenous communities of the four-corners area, including the Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain, Hopi, and Zuni peoples. The governments of these tribal nations come together to form the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, in hopes of having the area designated a National Monument to be co-managed with the partnership tribes.
SKY MIGRATIONS: DIR Charles Gifford. USA. While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire hemisphere to raise a raptor. A landscape devoid of raptors is without ecological integrity, the barometer of our collective wellbeing. High atop these remote ridgelines above the Great Basin, a region of unforgiving deserts, mountain ranges and sagebrush steppes, is the frontline of raptor conservation. U.S. Premiere.
SNAILS: DIR Grzegorz Szczepaniak. Poland. The French are outraged! The snail industry is growing and Polish breeders are exporting their snails not only to France or Italy, they are also conquering China and Japan.
TEXAS LIVING WATER: DIR Ben Masters. USA. Myron Hess has spent his life in court fighting for the health of Texas Rivers and Bays. What will it take to get the needed Environmental Flows?
THE BOTANIST: DIR Maude Plante-Husaruk and Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis. Canada. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan, a former Social Soviet Republic, plunged into a devastating civil war. A famine struck the mountainous region of the Pamir where Raimberdi, a passionate and ingenious botanist, built his own hydroelectric station to help his family survive through the crisis.
THE LAST HONEY HUNTER: DIR Ben Knight. USA. One man from the Kulung culture harvests psychotropic honey that is guarded by capricious spirits and the world’s largest honeybees.
THE MIRNAVATOR: DIR Sarah Menzies. USA. Ultra-runners overcome obstacles on every trail. While competing in her first 50K trail race of the season, Mirna Valerio must overcome the negative voices that don’t believe she belongs in the sport. D.C. Premiere.
THE SALMON FOREST: DIR Ben Hamilton. USA. The Salmon Forest explores the connection between wild salmon and the livelihood of the people who live near the Tongass National Forest in Southeastern Alaska. The film celebrates the unique role public lands play in salmon production while reminding us that proper management can support commercial fisheries, subsistence, recreation, and healthy forests. D.C. Premiere.
THEN, NOW, AND FOREVER: ZUNI IN THE GRAND CANYON: DIR Daniel A. Byers. USA. Created under the direction of the Zuni Elders, this short documentary follows several elders and Medicine Men on an ancient pilgrimage through the Grand Canyon to visit their place of origin and advocate for the protection of the land.
WE PRAYED IN WATER: DIR Joseph Erb. USA. Cherokee Nation tribal members worry about fracking pollution disrupting the ceremonial practice of “going to water.”
WILDLIFE AND THE WALL: DIR Ben Masters. USA. Showcasing the beautiful landscapes of the United States-Mexico border, discusses how a border wall would impact beyond immigration, and provides a look at how a few wildlife species in the area would be affected.
YOCHI: DIR Ilana Lapid. USA. Yochi, a 9-year-old selectively mute Mayan boy, guards a nest of endangered Yellow-Headed Parrots in Belize’s pine savannah. When his beloved older brother, Itza, returns from the city, Yochi learns that he’s in debt and has turned to poaching – setting the brothers on a collision course. D.C. Premiere.
VR SHORT FILM SELECTIONS
CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE: DIR Jeff Orlowski. USA. This adventurous underwater VR experience follows Zackery Rago, a passionate scuba diver and researcher, as he documented the unprecedented 2016 coral bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. An insightful exploration that accompanies Jeff Orlowski’s feature film of the same name (Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Sundance Film Festival, 2017), about the quest of a group of filmmakers and ocean scientists to capture visual evidence of our changing oceans.
THE PROTECTORS: WALK IN THE RANGER’S SHOES: DIR Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail. USA. From National Geographic Documentary Films, The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes chronicles a day in the life of a ranger in Garamba National Park. These rangers often are last line of defense in a race against extinction, at the hands of poachers slaughtering elephants for their ivory tusks.
ABOUT MARYANN CULPEPPER:
Maryanne Culpepper is the Executive Director of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital and an award-winning writer/filmmaker with extensive experience in developing, writing and producing high-profile documentaries and nonfiction series. She is the former President of National Geographic Studios, where she oversaw development and production of 100+ hours of factual programming annually. She recently coproduced Vamizi: Cradle of Coral, a film on the coral reefs of Mozambique, now in international distribution, as well as video and editorial content for a traveling exhibition for science museums. She is an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and serves on the Advisory Council for the Cuba Environmental Film Festival and for Women in Film and Video. She is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and an Affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers.