by Caitlin Zera                                                                        February 12, 2016

This year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival offerings include odes to waters great and small, slam poetry, and an unexpected love story. Reviewed here are five of the twelve films that will be showcased at the festival this Sunday.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

February 14, 2016 2-5pm

Windsor Auditorium on Stephen’s College campus

Columbia, Missouri

Trailer for “Love in the Tetons” – film featured at this year’s festival

While it’s easy to overlook short films because of their brevity and obscurity, they can offer us a lot – like the perfectly timed glimpse into a world unknown or the ideal whisper of intrigue into a complex issue.

Great ideas come from short films (often shorts are expanded into feature-length films if they prove to be successful) and great ideas are contained in short films. This year’s Wild & Scenic selection of 12 films all under 25 minutes delivers high caliber stories that will leave you with the best kind of insatiability for more adventure and knowledge.  

These short films are beautiful economies – plot lines never drag, characters never go astray, and each moment is utilized to advance our understanding of the story at hand. Overall, this year’s selection showcases gorgeous natural beauty – even though not a minute is wasted, each film gives audiences time to linger on the amazing vistas of our world and the incredible perils and possibilities we face.

Even in montage-driven films like “Thousand Year Journey,” we get a good look at all the natural wonders our main subject, Jedidiah Jenkins, experiences. From Oregon to Patagonia, this four-minute film about Jenkins’ cycling journey along the North American coast leaves viewers wanting to break their own routines and follow Jenkins’ advice to “be alive and awake every single day.” The film is a thread of incredible memories, like polaroid snapshots hung on a string with clothespins.

In “The Story of Place” audiences follow along the “enduring cultural map” of the impossibly beautiful Greater Canyonlands in Utah. The film is narrated by three voices, each with a different perspective, but they share a common love for the mystery and awe of the Canyonlands: author Craig Childs, adventure photographer Ace Kvale, and community leader Jim Enote. The film is specifically about the Canyonlands and the parts of it that remain unprotected territory. “What is this land worth in oil? Where do we want to steer our civilization? What do we want left when we’re done?” Childs asks. “It would be easy to let this place go unprotected if you didn’t know what this place was made of to begin with.” The film also echoes a broader sentiment about our society’s need to develop a greater sense of place and a deeper connection to our earth. The land belongs to all of us and none of us.

“Blackwater Drifters” is a 15-minute film that covers a 5 month journey down the Jefferson-Missouri-Mississippi River System. However, our main subjects, Joe and Nick, encourage us to think not in minutes or months but in  “river time, the pace of nature.”  River advocate Joe and filmmaker Nick set out to kayak the longest navigable waterway in North America passing through 14 states and traveling almost 4,000 miles. Throughout their trip they paddle alongside barges and wildlife, viewing up close the clash between industrialization and natural habitat. They pick out loads of trash in the riverway and visit with water activists who dispense advice on how to keep our waterways clean. “Everyone should pretend they’re a drop of water moving down river to see how they’re connected to the gulf of Mexico,” Dr. Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium says. The kayakers brave a treacherous rain storm and the “cancer corridor” – the most polluted part of the Mississippi River at the Southern-most tip of Louisiana where agricultural toxins from upstream congregate en mass. Agricultural run-off is a main topic throughout the film and the filmmakers urge us to understand our impact not just in our carbon footprint but in our nutrient footprint. The story of the Jefferson-Missouri-Mississippi River System is scientific and political but also personal. “Where do you go when you are where you want to be?” Joe asks. “If you ever find yourself numb, I implore you to find your river.”

It’s easy to feel a little (or a lot) downtrodden lately about the grip big industry has on our energy future (one need to look no further than the recent emergency hold the Supreme Court has put on the Clean Power Plan). If you’re feeling down, then  “Our Power Film – Black Mesa Water Coalition” will give you much needed revitalization. The film profiles a coalition of communities facing different battles with fossil fuel  industries. The prominent communities in the film are the Navajo Nation in Black Mesa and marginalized communities in Richmond, California, and Detroit, Michigan, who are fighting to protect their water sources. The coalition brings people together from communities affected on all levels by the fossil fuel industry – from extraction and production to refinement, consumption, and waste disposal. The coalition supports a “Just Transition” movement to make transition to renewables happen in a way that benefits all people, especially considering those who have been most affected by polluting industries. Their mantra “Power without Pollution, Energy without Injustice” will give you hope that people will triumph over polluters.

Why I Think this World Should End” is a four-minute poem artfully crafted by St. Louis rapper and activist Prince Ea. Set against the backdrop of a demolished home, Prince Ea delivers line after line of brutally honest sentiments about the loss of faith, love, and compassionate and the rise of greed, inequality, and violence. What’s most important, and for some perhaps most surprising, is that Prince Ea seamlessly connects all these troubling facts about the state of the world and the theme of environmental justice emerges. “It’s easier to find a Big Mac than an apple, and when you find the apple it’s been genetically processed and modified,” he raps. For Prince Ea, it’s clear: There are no illusions here. Just poetry as a vehicle for hard truths.

In a world becoming accustomed to 6-second Vine videos, seeing a collection of short films in a festival setting is really the best way to appreciate and experience the art of the short film. The films at this year Wild & Scenic are perfect for viewing with an audience of friends and strangers – they tell stories of beauty and renewal, peril and urgency. They are not stories of isolation.

Other films screening at the Wild & Scenic film festival include: River of Eden, Nature RX, Silent River, Filtering a Plastic Ocean, Aina – That Which Feeds Us, Art for Change, and Martin’s Boat.

You can enjoy the films of the Wild & Scenic film festival in Columbia, MO on February 14, 2016.  More information about attending the festival can be found here: