Inspiring outdoor films on the big screen never disappoint, and this past Thursday night’s Wild and Scenic Film Festival, a fundraiser for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay hosted at the Science Museum of Virginia, was no exception.
The Festival began in 2003 thanks to the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL, pronounced ‘circle’), a nonprofit river conservation group rooted in Nevada City, CA, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. SYRCL was founded in 1983 by local activists determined to protect their river from dams, and “the festival’s namesake is in celebration of achieving Wild & Scenic status on 39 miles of the South Yuba River in 1999.” The annual festival and tour now visits over 185 communities around the globe, having grown over the years to feature hundreds of environmental short films, each a unique call to action in our changing world.
Thursday’s event at the Dome was the second year the Alliance brought the festival to the Bay watershed, with showings in Richmond; Washington, D.C.; Annapolis, MD; and Lancaster, PA.
Read on for synopses and links to each full film as available, learn more about the featured subjects, and get involved with related local activities*.
A New View of the Moon
What started as one guy taking his telescope to the sidewalk for a better view of the moon evolved into igniting child-like joy in countless passersby.
- Local Link: Richmond Astronomical Society provides experiences to “expand understanding and awareness of astronomy and space science” and has monthly meetings at the Science Museum.
Ongoing research of coastal wetlands continues to demonstrate just how essential they are to human life, from protection against flooding to carbon sequestration.
Mexican Fishing Bats
On a small desert island in the Sea of Cortez, bats roost in rocks by day and go fishing at night. Scientists are studying these amazing mammals to determine how they do it and conserve their island home.
- Local Link: The week preceding Halloween each year was designated as Virginia Bat Week in 2019 by Governor Northam. Go here to learn more about Virginia’s 17 bat species and their conservation, which is supported in part by citizen volunteers.
In Escape, JaBig is a Montreal-based DJ and cyclist attempting the record for longest continuous bike ride in one country, finishing in Canada’s Northwest Territories… in winter. Learn more about an organization JaBig rides to support, World Bicycle Relief.
- Local Link: The Richmond Cycling Corp seeks “to change the lives of youth who live in Richmond’s public housing projects.”
Brotherhood of Skiing
1973 saw the first Black Ski Summit convene in Aspen, Colorado, to the delight and dismay of many. That first gathering, according to co-organizer Ben Finley, was to “identify and discuss problems and subjects which were unique to the Black skiing population, ski and socialize,” and it would later become the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS).
- Local Link: The NBS chapter closest to Richmond is Washington, D.C.’s Black Ski, Inc., which was founded a year before the Aspen summit occurred.
A group of teens and five veterans venture from Portland, Oregon, to the Arctic Circle for a challenging river expedition that will prove full of laughter, fly fishing, and lasting friendships. Learn more about Soul River Inc. here.
- Local Link: Two Richmond organizations working to increase access to the outdoors for veterans and inner city youth are Beyond Boundaries and Blue Sky Fund, respectively. Both welcome volunteers and donations.
March of the Newts
An intimate look at the lives of one species of salamander, the rough-skinned newt, brings awareness of an emerging disease afflicting amphibians which hasn’t yet arrived in North America. Let’s help keep it that way; our continent is home to more salamander species than any other.
- Local Link: Learn more about Virginia’s salamanders and the Virginia Herpetological Society here.
For the Love of Mary
George Etzweiler is an accomplished runner with multiple records. He’s also 97 years old and has a pacemaker. This endearing film chronicles George’s 7.6-mile journey up 4,700 feet of road to the Northeast’s tallest summit in memory of Mary, his late wife of 68 years. Learn more about the Mount Washington Road Race here.
Nature photographer Clay Bolt’s work goes big but focuses small. With photos in National Geographic and other prominent publications, “the Bug Guy” explains why his chosen subject is the 99% of all life that’s smaller than your finger.
- Local Link: Check out the VCU Kester Lab / Insect Ecology and Behavior Laboratory here.
Our National Parks belong to everyone. So why are they so white?
At a time when only 20% of National Park visitors are people of color, this film examines troubling aspects of National Park Service history, the reasons why many people of color don’t feel welcome in these and other outdoor spaces, and how we can advance equity, inclusion, and access to public lands and the broader conservation movement.
- Local Link: Richmond organization Groundwork RVA “works with Richmond youth to facilitate environmental, economic, and social well-being in neighborhoods through the transformation of blighted and neglected open spaces into public assets.” Donate and stay informed here.
- A national network, OutdoorAfro, “celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature.” Those interested in leadership can apply.
Climbing Out of Disaster
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, climbing guide Bryant Huffman and other Puerto Rican climbers realized their skills could help the island recover. (Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico are ongoing. Use Charity Navigator to help you assess how best to give.)
My Mom Vala
Icelandic fly-fisher and mother Vala splits time between working at her family’s fishing lodge in Greenland and raising her daughter Mathilda in Reykjavík to be as adventurous as she is.
Doug Peacock is a legendary author, eco-warrior, and voice of the grizzlies. A Vietnam War veteran, he spent solitary years observing bears in Wyoming and Montana wilderness and dedicated his life to their protection.
- Local Link: We may not have grizzlies, but Virginia is home to a healthy black bear population. Check out the DGIF’s Bear Aware resources here.
Music of the Spheres
Astrophysicist Wanda Diaz-Merced analyzes the movement of celestial bodies in a unique way: through hearing. Having lost her sight in her 20s, she listens to the universe by converting large datasets into sound, and her work has inspired scientists and musicians around the world.
- Local Links: Richmond musician and scientist Dr. Sarmistha Talukdar (solo project known as Tavishi) combines Indian classical with avant-garde sounds to create tracks often inspired by her work as a cancer researcher. One song uses sonification similar to Diaz-Merced’s methods, but instead of planets and stars, the source data was amino acid sequences.
- Sara Bouchard is another local musician and a teacher at VCU School of the Arts who used James River water quality data to create her work, Breathe, River.
*We researched local organizations and projects doing work relevant to the subject matter of each film. They are not necessarily affiliated with the films, Wild and Scenic Film Festival, or the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. We did not receive payment or any other benefits to mention them.