The Wild and Scenic Film Festival, on tour in Aspen for the fourth time Thursday, is unlike most film festivals. Johan Ehde, on-tour manager for the festival, says what sets this event apart is that it is by activists for activists. “We’re a nonprofit film festival, and we are working to protect our own resources. You will never see us endorsed by big companies that are not aligned with our mission.”
The festival was started by the South Yuba River Citizens League in 2003 in celebration of achieving “Wild and Scenic” status for a 39-mile stretch of the South Yuba River in California. SYRCL’s mission is to protect and restore rivers in their watershed from source to sea, but the tour allows host communities to promote activism and grassroots organization and to inspire individuals to take environmental action.
The festival, sponsored by ACES and Patagonia Snowmass, will feature 13 films from 4-15 minutes long. Ali Hager, events and development coordinator for ACES, says all the films focus on different ways community members take action, see a problem and figure out how to solve it. “It’s an adventure and advocacy series,” she says.
“The films will feature female mountaineers, fly fishing, how the climbing community can be more inclusive, the history of national parks, and wolves in Colorado. A pretty wide range of topics,” Hager says.
First and foremost, the films have to include good storytelling, Ehde explains, “but also content that maybe people haven’t seen before, urgent matters people need to be aware of, new perspectives on environmentalism. We are trying to veer away from gloom-and-doom narratives and be more positive about the message. We do tell intense stories with heavy subject matters that bring the stories alive and change the dynamic. We are looking for stories that leave the viewer with a sense of action, the sense of becoming activists and helping the environmental movement.”
One example of gentle, beautiful storytelling is “Lost in Light," a film that focuses on light pollution. “It’s beautiful imagery of our national parks,” Edhe says. “At the same time it shows how light pollution impacts these places.”
Another film that shows how methodical resistance can achieve stunning results is “Valve Turners,” wherein a group of activists systematically turned off the valves in five pipelines carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the United States.
Edhe says, “It was shot on an iPhone and speaks volumes about what we stand for regarding citizens movements taking action and what can happen when people work together. Simple actions can have large impacts.”
The Wild and Scenic Film Festival proceeds go to benefit Tomorrow’s Voices, a program of ACES, which provides civics and environmental leadership to regional high school students.
Hager says the films are in perfect alignment with the Tomorrow’s Voices program. “This festival makes you feel empowered when you see what other people are doing and you believe you can make a change in your community.”
Wild and Scenic Film Festival
Thursday, March 15, 7 p.m.
Wheeler Opera House