Environmental film festival returns to Evanston for fourth time

Alice Yin, Development Editor

The nationwide Wild & Scenic Film Festival is returning to play a selection of environmental films in Evanston on Friday.

Organized by the South Yuba River Citizens League, the touring festival will be at the Evanston Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Boulevard, on Feb. 6 and Feb. 20. The Evanston Environmental Association will play sixteen films both nights that range from a minute to just more than 30 minutes long.

This is the fourth time EEA is hosting the festival, and about 100 people are expected to attend each night. Last year, the festival sold out both nights.

The films cover many different themes. EEA board secretary Karen Taira said the subcommittee in charge of the movie selection combed through more than 100 different films that the league sent in, looking for a balanced mix of adventure, science, environmental policy and artistry. Each evening will feature 75 minutes of screen time.

“The environment doesn’t always have to be this dark and heavy conversation,” Taira said. “Sometimes a really good impact is to show them somebody having fun outside rock-climbing or surfing, to listen to the birds … It really gets you to start thinking … what actions positively or negatively affect what’s out there.”

Lisa Molomot, director of “School’s Out,” a documentary featuring kindergartners in Switzerland who go to class in a forest, said her film has an appreciation of nature present in the background, although it isn’t “super obvious” or “preachy.”

“The light was so beautiful in the forest and the sound is really good, under a canopy,” Molomot said. “Even after the first visit, saying goodbye, you have a bit of attachment.”

American parenting could hold kids back by trying to protect them from injury, Molomot said. Taira, who said “School’s Out” was her favorite film, also said the documentary revealed how kids tend to be disconnected with the outside world.

“There was such a contrast between what our kids had through American kindergarten and these kids,” Molomot said. “Little by little we learned stuff and questioned certain ways Americans tend to parent.”

The film “River of Eden” scopes the Fijian Highlands, where locals are conserving the jungle’s Upper Navua River through a tourism business along its tropical gorges. Steve Markle, the film supervisor, said he came up with the idea after witnessing a rich cultural experience during a visit. The documentary conveys a touching story, surrounding a group of people who understand the “intrinsic value” in Fiji’s setting, Markle said.

“You’re just totally overwhelmed with the beauty of it,” Markle said. “You literally are in a tight, narrow canyon with waterfalls everywhere you look. It’s a scene straight out of the most pristine jungle ever imaginable and you feel like you’ve gone back in time.”

This year, Bake 425, a new pizza restaurant on Central Street, will join last year’s list of sponsors, Taira said. Gift cards and products from all sponsors will be given out to attendees during drawings. Returning sponsors include Patagonia, Clif Bar, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Klean Kanteen, Orion Magazine and Barefoot Wine & Bubbly.

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