Wild & Scenic Film Festival searches for a bridge over troubled water

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival premieres Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Idaho Rivers United—whose mission is to protect and restore the rivers of Idaho—will livestream their Wild & Scenic Film Festival beginning today, Nov. 17. The films will be available online through Nov. 23.

In past years, this film festival has taken place at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum. Due to COVID concerns, organizers have decided to hold the event virtually. They hope to be back in-person in 2022.

The nine short films all involve water or fish in some way, highlighting grassroots conservation efforts and those who cherish nature.

“Water Flows Together” follows San Juan River guide Colleen Cooley as she explains the importance of indigenous lands to the body of water.

“The Waters That Heal Us” follows a group of U.S. veterans from Washington, D.C., as they learn about the catharsis of fly fishing in the Shenandoah Valley, led by the National Capitol Chapter of Project Healing Waters.

“Common Ground” shows how natural bodies of water can bring together tribes, ranchers and the government.

In “Still River, Silent Jungle” indigenous activist Ruth Alipaz Cuqui fights to stop the Chepete-Bala mega dam proposals in the Bolivian Amazon.

“Flotsam” follows David Gauzens, a gritty, no-frills kayak fisherman who endures the elements off the coast of Miami.

“Through the Breaks” showcases a pristine prairie landscape off the upper Mississippi River in eastern Montana, kept intact by the American Prairie Reserve.

“The Other Side of the River” explores homelessness along the Santa Ana River and the complex advocacy to clean up the area.

“Camel Finds Water” follows the zany adventure of Trevor Gordon restoring a wrecked ship and taking it off the coast of British Columbia so he can surf with his friend.

In “The Return,” citizens of Vancouver fight to save a collapsed salmon run.

Caitlin Straubinger, Membership and Outreach Coordinator of Idaho Rivers United, helped select the films.

“We hope people leave the film festival feeling inspired to take action, whether that’s writing to a legislature or going out and picking up trash around their local river,” Straubinger said. “Every little action adds up and helps keep our rivers healthy and flowing.”

Hayley Stuart, director of “Still River, Silent Jungle” will speak on the livestream. As she was growing up, Stuart often visited Ketchum to see family, ski and hike. “It does feel like home to me,” Stuart said.

Talking with local filmmakers inspired Stuart to pursue filmmaking as a career. She worked at the Sun Valley Resort to save up money. In 2018, Sawtooth Public House in Ketchum hosted a fundraiser for “Still River, Silent Jungle.” When the pandemic hit, she hunkered down in the Wood River Valley to finish the project.

“I hope the audience is left with hope, but also a sense of urgency, and that they are moved to help contribute to the important cause of these Bolivian communities,” Stuart said.

This short film is a proof of concept for a potential feature.

“Through Ruth’s eyes, we catch a glimpse of these sacred currents as sentient beings that are powerful and resilient, but also vulnerable to the decisions of humans,” Stuart said. Looking forward, Stuart hopes to get more involved with Idaho Rivers United.

Members of the organization will also be on the live chat, answering questions and sparking dialogue.

There will be prizes from national sponsors of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, including Peak Design, Klean Kanteen and Sierra Nevada Brewing. If you present your ticket to Salmon River Brewing in McCall, you can get a free 16 oz. beer, either to drink there or in a can to bring home.

“We chose to do it right around Thanksgiving, so we’re hoping that folks can watch it with their families or their friends ... and just feel thankful for the rivers in Idaho and feel inspired to take care of them,” Straubinger said.

The money goes to projects that help preserve critical fish spawning habitats.

“It runs the gambit from little things to big things and we’re here to work on all of them,” Staubinger said.

For more information, visit www.idahorivers.org/filmfest. 

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