Film Fest Shocks Viewers

By: Contributor
14 March, 2019

THE TAOS ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019 OFFICIAL SELECTIONS The Taos Environmental Film Festival is celebrating its 5th edition beginning on Thursday, April 18 to Friday, April 22. The film festival prides itself in presenting beautiful, thought provoking and award winning films by professional filmmakers who seek truth and scientific knowledge regarding our natural environment and all its inhabitants.

This year the festival is excited to present films that explore and search for inner and outer peace while also exploring various natural environments, its diverse inhabitants and the challenges posed to the world’s biodiversity.
With nuclear proliferation resurfacing and a resurgence of military spending it is important that we honor the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner, ICAN (international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons) for their work to help our endangered species. Each year that passes it has become apparent that humanity must find a way towards world peace.

Such films as |A Bold Peace, directed by Matthew Eddy and Michael Dreiling, takes the viewer to Costa Rica. It is a country that has many lessons the USA, and various countries, can learn from. The film juxtaposes the national policy of demilitarization (since 1948-49) with their investment in education, health, and the environment. TRT: 57 min; 2016.

Another film, A Quest for Meaning, directed by Marc de la Menardiere and Nathaniel Coste, takes the viewer from India to Guatemala, the United States and across Europe to discover the message of activists, biologists, philosophers and guardians of ancestral traditions from across the world. TRT: 88 min; 2015

As a result of humankind’s massive technological and industrial revolution we are now witnessing a collective existential crisis. The multi-award winning film, Plastic Paradise, takes viewers thousands of miles away from civilization to Midway Atoll. It is one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon. Along the way she meets scientists, researchers, influencers, and volunteers who shed light on the effects of our rapid plastic consumption. TRT: 95 min; 2013;

The Serengeti Rules, directed by Nicholas Brown, is one of the most important but untold science stories of our time—a tale with profound implications for the fate of life on our planet. Beginning in the 1960’2, a small band of young scientists headed out into the wilderness driven by an insatiable curiosity about how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth—from the majestic Serengeti to the Amazon jungle; from the Arctic Ocean to Pacific tide pools—they discovered a single set of rules that govern all life. These five unsung heroes of modern ecology share the stories of their adventures; reveal how their pioneering work flipped our view of nature on its head, and give us a chance to re-imagine the world as it could and shouldbe TRT: 84 min; 2018;

The Map to Paradise, directed by Danielle Ryan and James Sherwood, is an adventure- filled and spectacularly gorgeous tale about the birth of the global movement to protect the sea. From underwater worlds of ice to glistening coral sanctuaries, discover what it takes to build a movement and to create positive change. Filmed across six continents, the filmmakers have set out to challenge the mainstream narrative of hard-hitting environmental documentaries with a “doom and gloom” message and replace it with one of hope and courage. Along the way, we meet a prince, a president, a pirate, and also an island chief—among others—who are all playing a role in the quest to save the planet. TRT 95 min; 2018;

Hiro’s Table, directed by Taos resident Lynn Hamrick is a documentary portrait of master chef Hiroli Obayashi and his wife Yasyo over a sixteen-year span as they managed the day to day operation of their intimate Mom and Pop restaurant, Hirozen Gourmet, nestled in the unlikely corner of a West Hollywood strip mall. The film is a tribute to the subtleties of Hiro’s unique culinary vision and the perseverance it took for his family to transition from immigrant business owners to established restauranteurs with all the joys and sorrows that entailed. Like many of the small eateries in hidden spots in Los Angeles championed by Jonathan Gold, Hirozen Gourmet had a loyal following of regulars, foodies, chefs and food critics who are interviewed in the film. TRT: 55min; 2018
Humpback Whales directed by Greg MacGillivray and narrated by two-time Golden Globe nominee Ewan McGregor is an extraordinary journey into the mysterious world of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring marine mammals. Set in the spectacular waters of Alaska, Hawaii and Tonga, this ocean adventure offer audiences an up close look at how these whales communicate, sing, feed, play and take care of their young. Humpbacks are found in every ocean on earth and were nearly driven to extinction 50 years ago, but today are making a slow but remarkable recovery. Join a team of researchers as they unlock the secrets of the humpback and find out why humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all whales, why they sing their haunting songs, and why these intelligent, 55-foot, 50- ton animals migrate up to 10,000 miles round-trip every year. TRT: 39 min; 2015

A scientific exploration into some of the world’s most remote, unexplored caves, Journey Into Amazing Caves, directed by Stephen Judson, follows the story of two cavers, Dr. Hazel Barton and Nancy Aulenbach, as they search for extreme living organisms in the ice caves of Greenland, the underwater caves of the Yucatan Peninsula, and the earth caves of the Little Grand Canyon. TRT: 38 min; 2001

A spectacularly photographed film is The River and the Wall, directed by Ben Masters. The film follows five friends on an immersive adventure through the unknown wilds of the Texas borderlands as they travel 1,200 miles from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes, and canoes along the Rio Grande River. Conservation filmmaker Ben Masters realizes the urgency of documenting the last remaining wilderness in Texas as the threat of new border wall construction looms ahead. Masters recruits Nat Geo Explorer Filipe DeAndrade, ornithologist Heather Mackey, river guide Austin Alvarado, and conservationist Jay Kleberg join him on the two-and-a-half month journey down 1,200 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
They set out to document the borderlands and explore the potential impacts of a wall on the natural environment, but as the wilderness gives way to the more populated and heavily trafficked Lower Rio Grande Valley, they come face-to-face with the human side of the immigration debate and enter uncharted emotional waters. TRT: 97 min; 2018 Patagonia’s latest documentary film, Blue Heart, is directed by Britton Caillouette and depicts the fight to protect Europe’s last wild rivers and brings international awareness to a potential environmental disaster in Europe. The Balkan Peninsula between Slovenia and Albania is home to the last wild rivers in Europe where more than 3,000 proposed hydropower projects threaten to destroy the culture and ecology of this forgotten region. If fierce local opposition fails, 20,000 kilometers of pristine sparkling creeks, raging tributaries and swift, braided currents of the last undammed watersheds on the continent will be forever damaged by thousands of dams and diversions—at a time when dams are being decommissioned throughout much of the developed world.

Local activists living along the shores of these rivers and European NGOs such as River Watch are fighting against government corruption and foreign investment. Blue Heart documents the battle to protect Albania’s Vjosa River, the largest undammed river in Europe; the effort to save the endangered Balkan Lynx in Macedonia, and the months- long fight by women of Kruščica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are protesting day and night to save their community’s only source of drinking water. TRT: 43 min; 2018
Nasario Remembers is a documentary directed by Santa Fe resident, Shebana Coelho, about landscape and memory, set in the ghost towns of New Mexico’s Rio Puerco valley and featuring acclaimed oral historian Nassario Garcia.

The film combines footage of Dr. Garcia and his stories amid ruins and mesas with archival photos, and lyric scenes that evoke the storytelling spirits of the valley. Together, these elements create a deeply- felt cinematic encounter between teller and tale, what is gone and what is left of memory, and coming home to the story that only you can tell. Dr. Nasario Garcia received a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico for his “unparalleled” work in the “preservation of Hispanic language, culture and folklore in New Mexico. TRT: 56 min; 2017

Silent Forests is directed, written and edited by Mariah Wilson. The film is an intimate portrait of conservationists and activists who are fighting against all odds to stop forest elephant poaching in Africa’s Congo Basin region. This film takes viewers to the frontlines of conservation using an immersive, vérité-style approach. Silent Forests is a character-driven and cinematic look at the battle for the future of the forest elephant. We take advantage of Congo and Cameroon’s natural beauty by showcasing time lapses, slider “dolly” shots, wildlife scenics, and aerials to help make this film as cinematically captivating as possible. The storyline is driven by scenes and vérité moments with our main characters. These scenes are buttressed by explanations from either on-the-fly interviews or sit-down interviews with those characters, who speak to the big picture of what is happening right now in the central Africa… and what is at stake if they aren’t able to halt this ivory highway. TRT: 109 min; 2018
We humans are a force of nature. At the same time human activities alter the basic elements of life-earth, air, water, and fire- those elements change human life. The Human Element is an arresting new documentary from the producers of Racing Extinction, The Cove and Chasing Ice, environmental photographer James Balog captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. With rare compassion and heart, The Human Element’s coast-to-coast series of captivating stories inspires us to reevaluate our relationship with natural world. TRT: 76 min

Dii’go to Baahaane: Four Stories About Water (accents on Navajo words not present due to keyboard) Co-Directed by Deborah Begel (reports for New Mexico’s KSFR) and David Lindblom (Northern NM Community College Media Arts Professor), Navajo with English subtitles. This documentary is a four-part meditation on the Navajo people’s problems with contaminated drinking water. Four Stories About Water opens with a waterfall of people who reveal the scope of water contamination problems on Navajo lands, from the health problems that were likely caused by uranium tailings left uncovered to the view of water as “a spiritual element’ to the fact that 30% of the Navajo people don’t have access to safe water. 2012, TRT: 33 min.

Too Precious to Mine, 2017, director Justin Clifton. The Grand Canyon is an irreplaceable natural treasure that draws over 5.5 million visitors to the park each year. Yet, irresponsibly operated uranium mines located on federal public land just miles from the North and South Rims threatens to permanently pollute the Grand Canyon landscape and the greater Colorado River. TRT: 10 min.

Tale of a Toxic Nation, 2012, Director, Louis Berry. It is the story of a nation rich in resources but weak in political influence. The Navajo Reservation has been left with over 500 abandoned uranium mines; toxic surroundings and an impossible clean up. The story has never been more relevant under an administration threatening to restart uranium mining. TRT: 13 min; 2018
Half Life: The Story of America’s Last Uranium Mill, Director: Justin Clifton. In southeastern Utah, not far from many of America’s famed national parks,

lies America’s last remaining uranium mill. After more than 36 years in operation, the leaders of the nearby Ute Mountain Tribe’s White Mesa community worry that las regulations and aging infrastructure are putting their water supply, and way of life, at risk. TRT:12 min; 2016
Walking Thunder, directed by Santa Fe residents, Cyril Christo & Marie Wilkinson and narrated by their son Lysander. The filmmakers travel with their young son Lysander across East Africa, filming over the course of ten years as they observe the role of the elephant and its own rapidly changing reality. Walking Thunder presents a unique way of engaging a broad audience on these topics, telling a story through a family’s perspective and a child’s eyes. The directors have published photography books and articles, and have lectured and exhibited artwork on the subject internationally- but they see documentary as a way to engage audiences on a wider scale and with greater emotional impact.
TRT: 94 min; 2018

I Am Nature, directed by Elke Duerr who divides her time between New Mexico, Montana and Europe. I am nature: You are human nature, nature in human form. You humans are the outside Earth, animated Earth. What befall one of us, befalls us all. Now the time has come for reciprocity, for caring for me and yourselves, for giving and receiving, for healing all life on this planet.TRT: 8 min; 2019

Anthem for the Amazon, Amazon Aid Foundation, TRT 5 min
Voices for the Amazon, Amazon Aid Foundation, TRT 6min
Anthem for the Amazon is a collaboration to unite the world in a compelling call to action to save the world’s greatest rainforest through the universal language of music. 500 children from 50 different countries around the world came together to sing this global anthem and stand up for the Amazon rainforest. We hope you’ll sing along with them.

River of Gold, directed by Sarah Dupont and Reuben Aaronson. Narrated by Sissy Spacek and Herbie Hancock. War journalists Ron Haviv and Donovan Webster travel along Peru’s Madre de Dios River to reveal the savage unraveling of pristine rainforest. Peruvian environmental activist and biologist, Enrique Ortiz, guides the team, pointing out the heedless exploitation of the land. Miners rush to the Amazon to scrape together enough money to start a business or to feed their family while disregarding the catastrophic consequences to their health and homeland. Vulnerable trees, over one thousand years old, and countless species of plants, animals, and insects, both known to science and yet to be discovered, fall victim to the annihilation. Environmental degradation and human degradation are irrevocably intertwined as illegal gold mining is directly tied to corruption, human trafficking, narcotics, and organized crime.

An animated agouti springs to life to tell the story of its ecosystem, as it represents the only species capable of cracking open the Brazil nut and thereby repopulating this essential apex forest tree. The valuable Amazon rainforest is not only being stripped of life, but also forever poisoned with mercury, a by-product of illegal mining practices. Flash forward four years to a massive intervention by the Peruvian government. What will be the fate of this critical region as these extraordinarily beautiful forests are turned into a hellish wasteland? River of Gold reaffirms the right of the rainforest to exist as a repository of priceless biodiversity and not as the toxic remains of man’s greed for gold.
TRT: 61 minutes, 2018

Earth Day Proclamation will be read at the beginning and during the film festival, which is April 22, 2019.

“In nature nothing exists alone.” Rachel Carson