Pick of the Week

Five Fabulous Films

In case you haven't noticed, our environment is not in great shape. Suburbanization, deforestation, pollution of air, water and land ... the list never seems to end. And we're constantly adding to it. Whatever one's politics are, we all have to agree on one thing: Our Earth is beautiful. And valuable. Do we really want to let it be destroyed?

The answer, of course, is no. But it's so easy--especially living in the city--to forget about the environment and the danger it's in. At least every once in a while, we need to be reminded of what's out there.

That's where the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival comes in. It's a collection of award-winning environmental and adventure films designed not only to entertain and inform, but to inspire--to use the beauty of the natural world to motivate viewers to help conserve it.

Put on by a coalition of environmental groups in Nevada City, Calif., this film festival has only been around for about three years, but it's already received a lot of local, regional and even national applause. In fact, it's now the largest and best-known festival of its kind on the West Coast. And this year will be the first time it comes to our town, as a benefit for the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit organization based in Tucson that advocates for the protection of endangered species. The hope is to bring more support for the center and at the same time increase our city's motivation to protect the plants and animals that inhabit our wild places. "Because," as the center's motto goes, "life is good."

Five films from among the favorites of the Nevada City collection have been chosen to be shown at this special Tucson screening. The first is Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action, a documentary about some of the most grievous but little-known human rights and environmental violations in the U.S. today. The film exposes the realities of life on Native American land: tribes forced to fish in toxic waters, small children playing near radioactive waste and houses surrounded by strip mines, factories and dumps. All of this sobering footage, however, is balanced with hope as the camera follows the efforts of two native activists from the Gwich'in and Cheyenne tribes who are dedicated to protecting their land, their people and their culture.

Of a somewhat lighter nature--but no less affecting--are two films that show the natural world's importance from the point of view of avid outdoorsmen. In Return to Balance: A Climber's Journey, world-famous rock climber Ron Kauk shares his adventures and the lessons he's learned about our connection with nature and our responsibility to protect it. Full of awesome shots of Yosemite National Park, this movie could inspire passion through its imagery alone. And, as an added bonus, Kauk is scheduled to be present at the screening for a question-and-answer session. Following Return to Balance, the festival will feature a comedy called Zoltan, a brief tongue-in-cheek profile of a "professional" tuber trying to gain respect in the world of whitewater rafting.

The True Cost of Food is another humorous movie, an animated piece that--while it will make you laugh--might shock you as it reveals the hidden environmental, health and social costs of agribusiness. This film is only 15 minutes long, but its message is critical, because it shows some ways that environmentally harmful farming practices have a negative affect on you, implying that--in the long run--eating anything but local, organic food is what should really be considered "unaffordable."

The final film on the festival's program, Last Journey for the Leatherback, might also make you rethink your eating habits. It tells about the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, a 9-foot-long creature that has survived as a species for more than 100 million years--but is soon facing extinction if wasteful industrial fishing practices don't stop. According to Internet reviews, this film has convinced many people--even nonenvironmentalists--to stop eating swordfish and tuna, which are caught through techniques particularly devastating to leatherbacks.

Maria Nasif, an enthusiastic volunteer at the Center for Biological Diversity, asserts that you really don't have to be a diehard environmentalist to get something out of these films. "What will draw people to this festival is the beauty of the documentaries themselves," she says. "They portray phenomenal landscapes. If you have any interest in the natural world at all, whether it's superficial or you're an environmental junkie ... these films will inspire as well as provoke. And I mean 'provoke' in a positive way."

The Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Tour will take place at 7 p.m., next Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Summit Hut (5045 E. Speedway Blvd. or 605 E. Wetmore Road, No. 151) or online. Proceeds will benefit the Center for Biological Diversity.

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