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Take a walk on the wild side

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Kayakers Seth Warren and Tyler Bradt followed summer from Alaska to Argentina in a retrofitted, vegetable oil-powered Japanese fire truck. They could have filled a novel with the ubiquitous topic “What I did on my summer vacation,” but they spared us all and made a rad movie instead. Oil and Water Project is Warren and Bradt’s award-winning account of their gasoline-free journey down the Pan-American Highway.

- ALL DOWNHILL, OF COURSE :  Seth Warren and Tyler Bradt cruise from Alaska to Argentina sans gasoline in the documentary film Oil and Water Project. -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILD & SCENIC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILD & SCENIC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
  • ALL DOWNHILL, OF COURSE : Seth Warren and Tyler Bradt cruise from Alaska to Argentina sans gasoline in the documentary film Oil and Water Project.

Carpa Diem, by Italian director Sergio Cannella, is the fictional story of a goldfish’s brush with death—the near victim of a critical water shortage. As Carpa Diem clocks in at a mere two minutes in length, it’s quicker to watch the film than it is to list every award it’s garnered: Best Short, the Grand Prix Fiction Award, and the Mediterranean Environmental Award, to mention a few.

Both films are radically different, highly creative efforts to raise awareness about protecting the environment. Already favorites at festivals around the globe, the two are among seven to screen at Cal Poly as part of the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, hosted by the Los Padres ForestWatch.

 

Every January, the largest and most unique film fest of its kind takes place in Nevada City, Calif. In a weekend-long event hosted by South Yuba River Citizens League, Wild & Scenic showcases the best of environmentally conscious cinema. To some, the festival’s title might conjure an image of dated “nature programs” in which a bored British voice can hardly be bothered to drone on over grainy images of the Sahara. Or worse, ads that imply that when you leave the water running you are greedily sucking it out of the outstretched palms of some parched child. But Wild & Scenic is neither droning nor goody-goody. Its films are all about reaching the highest summits, kayaking in the most murderous rivers, celebrating all life, and protecting the natural world. Nevada City’s environmental film fest has been praised by both filmmakers and activists as “the next Sundance” and “the festival to end all festivals.”

This year the Nevada City festival screened no fewer than 125 films. Of that number, 40 favorites were hand-picked to take part in the film festival traveling across North America. From the 40 films selected for the tour, says ForestWatch Executive Director Jeff Kuyper, “we were able to pick three hours’ worth of what we thought were the most relevant and inspiring for San Luis Obispo.” This is the first year Wild & Scenic will stop on the Central Coast, though Kuyper says SLO will become an annual stop on the festival’s tour.

MUCH ADO ABOUT POO :  Chile’s water quality is threatened by both forestry and sewage, a nasty dilemma tackled by filmmakers in Pulp, Poo and Perfection. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILD & SCENIC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILD & SCENIC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
  • MUCH ADO ABOUT POO : Chile’s water quality is threatened by both forestry and sewage, a nasty dilemma tackled by filmmakers in Pulp, Poo and Perfection.

The seven films to be screened at Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre vary in length from two to 53 minutes. Some are funny, says Kuyper, while other selections are “tough, hard-hitting and real.”

At least one of the films on the program, an 18-minute flick titled Sisquoc Damolition, addresses a local issue: an ongoing project taking place on the Sisquoc River, most of which lies within the San Raphael wilderness. Local conservation organizations decided to detonate an obsolete dam in one of the river’s tributaries, where it was collecting sediment and blocking steelhead from spawning upstream. Damolition explains the importance of the river to steelhead, as well as the reasons for blowing up the dam.

 

The feature film, A Land out of Time, shows rural landowners and environmental groups in the Rocky Mountain West in a battle against oil development. (“The Rockies are being asked to meet the nation’s gas appetite,” one activist says poignantly.) The film’s setting isn’t local, but its subject matter may strike a chord with locals familiar with last year’s Upper Lopez Canyon oil drilling efforts, Kuyper points out.

One selection tackles two issues threatening water quality—and thereby, surfing—in Chile: sewage and forestry. Voted Best Environmental Surf

OIL RIGS IN THE ROCKIES? :  A film still from A Land Out of Time, winner of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival’s Spirit of Activism Award. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILD & SCENIC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILD & SCENIC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
  • OIL RIGS IN THE ROCKIES? : A film still from A Land Out of Time, winner of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival’s Spirit of Activism Award.
Film, Pulp, Poo and Perfection is a story shown through the eyes of fishermen, surfers, activists, and other lovers of the sea. Just how hard-hitting can a film about ‘poo’ get? And what sort of grownup still uses the word ‘poo’? We’ll all have to wait and see!

 

INFOBOX: All aboard the veggie-mobile!

The Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival comes to Cal Poly’s Spanos Theater on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased in advance from Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center. Call 756-2787 or go to www.pacslo.org.

 


Intern Anna Weltner runs on soybeans, coffee beans, moonbeams, and starlight. Send comments via Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach at aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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