Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Festival Hosts Films From Wild (North)West

    Washington Water Trust is bringing eight films from out of the wild and into downtown Seattle for the 12th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival this Thursday, April 24. The festival features a variety of short films and documentaries about nature, outdoor adventures and environmental issues.

    “We wanted to bring together a collection of conservation and environmental films to showcase what other organizations and individuals are working on and what some of the issues of concern are in our region,” said Jason Hatch, Washington Water Trust Project Manager and one of the coordinators for the festival.

    Washington Water Trust picked eight documentaries that capture “the rush and exhilaration of engaging in the natural world,” Hatch said.

    One of the featured documentaries was filmed particularly close to Seattle.

    “The Strong People” focuses on the largest dam removal project in United States history on the Elwha River in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The film, created by students at Emerson College in Boston, chronicles the dam removal and restoration of salmon in the Elwha River through the perspective of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, who have lived along the river for thousands of years.

    “They’re economically, culturally and spiritually connected to that river,” said Heather Hoglund, co-director, producer and editor of the documentary. The film is named after the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose name means “strong people.”

    The tribe was the first group to propose removing the dams, which were disrupting the salmon from swimming upstream and thereby creating a ripple effect that damaged the surrounding ecosystem.

    It is the first large-scale dam removal performed “as a solution to renewing and revitalizing the ecosystems around a river,” Hoglund said. “From a global standpoint, this is a case study and everyone is watching the Elwha to see if dam removal is something we should start considering along rivers nationally and internationally.”

    Other films in the festival focus on smaller, simpler storylines such as “SLOMO.”

    “‘SLOMO’ is a character piece telling the story of the radical transformation of Dr. John Kitchin from a mild-mannered neurologist into the iconic Pacific Beach slow-motion rollerblader, Slomo,” said Josh Izenberg, director of “SLOMO.”

    The documentary is about a 69-year-old successful, upper-class man who quit his job to rollerblade along a boardwalk in San Diego every day.

    “He is showing us another way of life that’s outside the general societal narrative,” Izenberg said.
    Izenberg was inspired to make the film because he was interested in “the wisdom that is hidden within people who we generally dismiss as being the town eccentric, or the weirdo, or the beach bum.”

    In the film, Slomo speaks about a spiritual, meditative element of his rollerblading and offers a neurological explanation for this feeling.

    “A portion of the film is devoted to exploring this idea of lateral acceleration, curving, turns and sliding sports and how they affect your consciousness,” Izenberg said.

    The film also includes themes about aging and “the idea of doing what you want to versus doing what you’re supposed to,” Izenberg said.

    “A Life Well Lived” is another short film which focuses on one remarkable individual: Seattle University alumnus Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mount Everest. The film was commissioned by Seattle U last year for their 2013 Red Tie Celebration honoring Whittaker.

    “The film was really a celebration of the 50th anniversary of that summit in the form of an inspirational message about the importance of taking risks and really loving our relationship with nature,” said Eric Becker, director, editor and producer of the film. Whittaker emphasizes the importance of nature as a grand, supreme teacher.

    “There’s something very humbling about being in Jim’s presence and something universal in his message about the importance of taking risks, doing the things you love and not worrying about breaking some bones along the way,” Becker said. “Guys like Jim really inspire us to do our best and to reach beyond what we know we’re capable of doing.”

    Though the Wild & Scenic Film Festival features a wide variety of films, they each share one common theme.

    “Festivals like Wild & Scenic remind us that we are in an actual fight to save the environment,” Becker said.

    “It’s really about preserving those places that we all really love,” Hatch noted. “We love them on a map, we love them on film, but we love to be in them in-person. We hope people will go enjoy those places and be even more inspired to protect them.”

    The Wild & Scenic Film Festival takes place at the SIFF Cinema Uptown on Thursday, April 24, at 6 p.m. A pre-show happy hour and raffle will begin at 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds will support the work of Washington Water Trust.

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