The lifespan of a tree might have been the underlying theme for the Portland EcoFilm Festival. Festival programming on the first days concentrated on the roots of environmental film, and ended on day four with the seeds of action, planted by powerful ecological truths.
Director Suzanne Crocker’s All the Time in the World opened Saturday’s events with the intimate unfolding of a family’s love deep in Yukon wilderness. They surprise themselves, and us, with a joyful lucidity born of simplicity and being present with one another. Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer’s Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story also surprised us, this time with the abundance and wealth of eating in the margins of discarded foods.
Director Mark Titus’ The Breach, in full cinematic view, proved majestic—so much so that the festival’s EcoHero Award winner and original Greenpeace cinematographer Ron Precious said after viewing the film, “I would be happy to surrender my award.” The film reveals an area eight times the size of the Snake River watershed in imminent danger by the reawakened proposed Pebble Mine. The Bristol Bay story, including the proposed mine, is placed in context with pervasive policy failures to the south.
Director Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon danced through water, bouncing light off the screen with a mystic play of innocence and experience. Once I got home in the dark of night, on the edge of sleep, ovals of plasmatic color danced through my entire body.
Following an EcoShorts shorts screening, Oregon climate-recovery activist youth from Portland’s Sunnyside Environmental School and Our Children’s Trust shared the stage with filmmaker Eddie Roqueta (via Skype), who was presented the Best Short Film Award for his bison short “Silencing the Thunder.” Festival director Dawn Smallman noted the film’s ability to say in 27 minutes what many feature length films fail to accomplish.
On Sunday, I arrived at the festival fresh from the Celilo First Salmon Ceremonies being held up the Columbia River at Celilo Village, to watch a pair of films about protecting water, featuring the work of three Pacific Northwest filmmakers. Director Trip Jenning’s ChuitnaCoal: More than Salmon On the Line, represented onstage by producer Paul Moinester, invoked the ongoing flooding of the ancient tribal fishery at Celilo Falls as a warning of what’s at stake for the rare five-species salmon wilderness of the Chuitna River watershed, bedded by coal.
Director Suree Towfighnia’s Crying Earth Rise Up, represented onstage by producer Courtney Hermann, exposed the ongoing permanent poisonings caused by uranium mining in the Ogallala aquifer. During the Q&A, Cathy Sampson-Kruse of the Wallulapum, member of the Confederated Tribes of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla, reminded us of our essential unities: Native Americans and settlers alike, we are facing the violence of mega corporations who in their greed are killing the sources of life for us all. We all have to work together if any of us are to survive.
An encore performance of the festival’s Best Feature Film award-winner, How to Change the World, closed the festival with a recollection from Ron Precious about a witnessing a rainbow touch the Greenpeace ship. Precious located Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter in the engine room and pulled him on deck, whereupon Hunter immediately stripped naked and dove into the ocean, swimming toward the other end of the rainbow. Hunter disappeared beneath the surface for what seemed minutes before reappearing at rainbows end, filled with the joy and majesty of defending life! MM
Treothe Bullock is a blogger who resides in Portland, Oregon. Read his writing at Tree Oathe – Fresh Ancients of Cascadian and Beyond.
The Portland EcoFilm Festival ran April 9-12, 2015. For more information, visit the festival’s official website, and read Treothe’s wrap of days one and two here. Photographs by Greg Snider. Film stills courtesy of the festival.