Conservation film festival coming to Kenai

Melinda Booth makes a habit of watching hundreds of films every year. This year, she watched about 400 of them.

Booth curates the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, an annual event that will make a tour stop at the Kenai Visitor Center Thursday night.

“It’s a really wonderful job, but it’s easy to get down on what’s happening in the world,” Booth said. “I’m the one who watches every single film, and we have a volunteer committee that makes the selections. But I think it’s important to have one person who’s seen everything.”

Although Wild & Scenic is a large film festival held in January in Nevada City, California, the films go on tour to cities nationwide, Booth said. The tour will make about 150 stops nationwide, including seven in Alaska — in Kenai, Talkeetna, Nome, Anchorage, Cordova, Juneau and Haines. Nome already held its event in July, she said.

Cook Inletkeeper will host the event in Kenai. Although the films feature topics in environmental conservation worldwide, there are a few that focused on Alaskan issues. One film that will be played in California, “Chuitna: More than Salmon on the Line,” was produced with assistance from Cook Inletkeeper.

“It also shines a spotlight on some local environmental issues as well, which Cook Inletkeeper has been involved with, so it’s a really neat partnership,” Booth said.

Margo Reveil, the Development and Office Coordinator for Cook Inletkeeper, said the organization selected the films to show in Kenai from more than two dozen options.

The staff ultimately selected 14 films to show, deliberately choosing films they thought would be inspiring, she said.

“We wanted to inspire people and to give them a sense or urgency to take action themselves,” Reveil said. “But we didn’t want every film to be an issue film.”

The films range in topic from documenting the adventures of a young rock climber to the extensive strip coal mining in Alabama to a short film by Homer filmmaker and adventurer Bjørn Olson.

Most of the films are short, but the “anchor film” — the longest film in the series — lasts approximately 45 minutes. Titled “Drawn,” it follows the journey of an artist named Jeremy Collins, who traveled the world to honor a friend. Reveil said although it is not an issue film, it still follows the theme of the festival.

“It’s not actually an action film, it’s just a deeply touching film,” Reveil said. “One of the things we’re wanting to connect people to is that place has meaning.”

Kaitlin Vadla, the Central Peninsula Coordinator for the Cook Inletkeeper, has been coordinating the outreach to make people aware of the festival. She said the goal of the night is to leave people inspired and wanting to get involved.

“There are so many things to take action on right here at home,” Vadla said. “We live in a beautiful place, and there are a lot of water and habitat issues, and there are a lot of things we can do to have an awesome future here and around the state.”

In addition to the films, several of the festival’s local sponsors will have tables at the event, including the Kenai Watershed Forum, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Immersion Paddling Academy, Odie’s Deli, Wilderness Way and the Kenai River Brewery, she said.

The Cook Inletkeeper chose not to screen “Chuitna: More than Salmon on the Line,” although it is the most local film on the festival docket. The organization held a screening earlier this year and already has the rights to host other screenings with that film, so they chose to screen other films at Wild & Scenic, according to Reveil.

“I think it’s going to be different for everything,” Reveil said. “There’s one, “Overburdened/Undermining,” that is about coal mining in Alabama, and since we have similar issues here, I think that will touch our community.”

Tickets cost $10 either online or at the door. The proceeds from the Kenai event will help Cook Inletkeeper break even on the event, Vadla said. The overall proceeds for the film festival go to promote conservation efforts on the Yuba River through the South Yuba River Citizens’ League in Nevada City, California, which organizes the film festival every year.

The SYRCL originally organized in opposition to several proposed dams on the Yuba River, a 40-mile tributary of the Feather River in California. The Yuba is a salmon habitat that flows in the San Francisco Bay and is “the birthplace of hydraulic mining,” Booth said.

Although the organization achieved its goal of preventing the dams, it still has work to do restoring the river and monitoring water quality. The river is a habitat for endangered Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon, and all proceeds go to the SYRCL’s conservation efforts, Booth said.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Cook Inletkeeper and all of our partners in Alaska,” Booth said.

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