Wild & Scenic delivers inspiration and reminders

Plumas County residents descend on the Town Hall Theatre in Quincy on Wednesday, Sept. 11, for the annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival. Photo by Meg Upton

It’s become an annual tradition. Every September, environmental-leaning residents and students from the college descend on the Town Hall Theatre for a few hours of films that remind the viewers of the delicate ecosystems around the world — and this year there were familiar faces on the screen as well as in the audience.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Quincy is a selection of films from the larger Wild and Scenic Film Festival that takes place in Nevada City and Grass Valley every January over four days. Next January will be the 18th year of the festival, which seeks to celebrate and inspire environmental activism.

The festival can feel like sitting in a room watching beautifully filmed public service announcements.

This year’s lineup had a pleasing eye feast of “March of the Newts” and “Mexican Fishing Bats” and the history and plight of “Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs – Yosemite Nature Notes” as the focal point of highlighting animal life endangered by man and man-made decisions.

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The introduction of “A New View of the Moon” was probably the Zen moment. A tiny, short film where one man set up a telescope on various streets in downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica Beach and offered passersby the chance to look at the moon up close. The result of course being the universal awe we humans get when we see the moon up close.

The sweet film of the evening was “For the Love of Mary,” about a man in his 90s who still runs every chance he gets — a hobby he took up in his late 40s to get healthier, and one he does now in memory of his wife.

Absolutely the most poignant was “Brotherhood of Skiing” — a short film chronicling the history of African-American ski clubs in the United States. They were started so that African-Americans could have strength in numbers on the slopes as a way to enjoy the sport of skiing without the harassment that can accompany African-Americans trying to pursue recreation in the outdoors.

“Blue Carbon” was perhaps the timeliest film, given last week’s federal overturning of water protections in the United States by the current administration. The film explained the role wetlands play in a healthy ecosystem.

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Perhaps the most hopeful film was “Climbing out of Disaster” which chronicled a Puerto Rican climbing club that used its skills as rock and tree climbers to help clean up and clear paths after Hurricane Maria devastated the American territory.

It almost goes without saying that the crowd pleaser of the night was “Visions of the Lost Sierras.” The film definitely felt like an homage to friends and neighbors and the cheering in the audience confirmed it. Plumas County residents such as Darrel Jury, Paul Hardy and Trina Cunningham starred in the film about the Middle Fork Feather River and why it’s important to have wild rivers and wilderness left in the world.

It’s not often that one sees their hometown or home region on film and many audience members spoke afterwards about how it reminded them of why they chose to live here in the first place. The beauty and the solitude is not found in many other places.

The intermission also held a highly anticipated drawing for swag from various sponsors. The odds are usually very good that you might walk away with something.

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The festival serves as a benefit for Plumas Arts with local sponsorship from Plumas National Forest, Feather River Land Trust, Friends of Plumas Wilderness, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, Sierra Institute, Feather River Outdoors and Quintopia Brewing Company.

The festival is nearly always sold out as this one almost was.

To learn more about the festival, readers can visit www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org. Copies of most of the films can be found on the website.

The deadline for submissions for films for the 2020 festival is Sept. 24. The deadline for art is Nov. 15.