Fest is wild, scenic and fracking relevant | TheUnion.com

Fest is wild, scenic and fracking relevant

Tom Durkin
Special to The Union

Technically, this weekend's SYRCL Wild & Scenic Film Festival isn't just a four-day film festival. It's an environmental activist gathering that also features workshops, speakers, art, music, excursions and other environmentally oriented activities and opportunities.

"We use our film festival as a platform for raising money for SYCRL's work and also raising awareness for environmental issues in general," explained Melinda Booth, festival and development director of the South Yuba River Citizens League.

Each year, SYCL chooses a theme. This year, it's "emPOWERment," implying both a focus on energy and inspiring people to take action. Booth is serious about the action thing: "We're looking forward to people coming out and having a life-changing experience."

Star emPOWERment

In terms of promoting Wild & Scenic, "It really makes sense to have a big-name celebrity at the festival when it also ties in with what we're what we're doing," Booth said. "Debra Winger is a perfect fit for the kind of content that we like to screen."

Winger ("An Officer and a Gentleman," "Terms of Endearment" and "Shadowlands") was an executive producer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Gasland," which screened at Wild & Scenic several years ago.

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"Gasland" exposed the serious environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — to obtain new sources of oil and natural gas.

Because the fracking situation is only getting worse, director Josh Fox has made a sequel, "Gasland II," and again, Winger backed the film as an executive producer.

As a festival headliner, Winger will speak after both showings of "Gasland II" Friday evening.

Activists and filmmakers

Wild & Scenic is almost as well known for its activist speakers as for its stunning and thought-provoking films. Booth mentioned three special guests festivalgoers might especially want to see.

Tim DeChristopher is returning to Wild & Scenic this year. "He's just an incredible activist," Booth said.

DeChristopher became notorious in 2008 for fraudulently outbidding oil and gas companies for rights to Bureau of Land Management property. He spent 21 months in federal prison for that news-making exploit. He will be presenting a workshop on activism and music, Booth reported.

John Trudell is another returning Wild & Scenic favorite, according to Booth. He is a longtime Native American activist, philosopher, poet, actor and recording artist. He will speak after the world-premiere showing of the music video "Buffalo Wild," which is based on a poem he wrote.

Booth also recommended Wild & Scenic attendees look for teenager Juliette West, the star and co-producer of "How I Became an Elephant." She will speak after both showings of her award-winning film about elephant abuse.

"The list of special guests truly, truly goes on," Booth stated.

The Grass Valley connection

While Wild & Scenic is mostly based in Nevada City, the festival actually kicks off in Grass Valley with a reception Thursday afternoon at 151 Union Square restaurant on Mill Street.

After the reception, the first screening of the festival will be a family friendly showing of three 3D films at the Del Oro Theatre.

There will also be film sessions Friday and Saturday evening at the Center for the Arts. Additionally, the Del Oro will host the Kids Films session Saturday morning.

This is the second year Wild & Scenic has extended to Grass Valley.

"We're really excited about having a presence there," Booth said. Besides the films, she said there are five wine tastings and 11 art displays affiliated with Wild & Scenic in Grass Valley.

"We get in the spirit," agreed Julia Jordan, director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association.

A banner has been stretched above Mill Street, and many merchants have Wild & Scenic window displays and are offering coupons to festival-goers, she said.

It's complicated

Admission to the films and events at Wild & Scenic ranges from free to well more than $1,000 for VIP passes. SYRCL members and youths get discounts.

Most single-session tickets cost from $20 to $40. The Saturday morning Kids Films are $8 for all ages.

The basic four-day festival pass is $120 for adults, $100 for SYRCL members and $60 for youths 17 and under. (Does not include Kids Films and special events.)

For reserved seating, admission to special events and other amenities, festival pass upgrades range from $349 to $6,000.

Tickets will not be sold at the venues, Booth cautioned.

People who have not already purchased tickets may buy them Thursday at SYRCL offices at 313 Railroad Ave., Suite 101, Nevada City. On Friday through Sunday, tickets may be purchased or picked up (will call) at Wild & Scenic headquarters at 224 Church St. in Nevada City.

For information, call 530-265-5961 or go to http://wildandscenicfilmfestival.org. The website has the entire 64-page festival program online. Festival-goers get hard copies of the program with their tickets.

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.

Know & Go

WHO: South Yuba River Citizens League

WHAT: Wild & Scenic Film Festival

WHERE: Multiple venues, Nevada City and Grass Valley

WHEN: Multiple times, Thursday evening through Sunday

TICKETS & INFO: 530-265-5961 or http://www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org