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’Resilient by nature’: Wild & Scenic Film Festival goes virtual

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
'Salmon' crossing the street during the 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in downtown Nevada City. This year the beloved festival goes virtual, reaching a global audience.
Photo by Josh Miller
The official poster art for the 2021 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Provided graphic
A still from the film “2040,” just one of many films featured at the 2021 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Provided photo
A mom and her two children take a look at a brochure outside the Nevada Theatre during the 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Photo by Josh Miller
“Rise Beyond Gold" is a film about a proposal to re-open a relic gold mine in Nevada County. The community faces a foreign corporation that would take the gold from under their property and leave a toxic legacy. ”Rise Beyond Gold“ raises bigger questions for the world at large. Why do we desire gold; and ultimately, is it worth it?
Provided photo

WHAT: The 19th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival

WHEN: Jan. 14 through Jan. 24, 2021

WHERE: Online

MORE INFO: https://wsff.eventive.org

For many people, there is simply nothing better than watching a film on a giant screen, while eating popcorn in the dark. For others, watching a movie from the comfort of their own home is the ultimate pleasure. This year, as movie theaters have been forced to close, the big screen option is more of a challenge, but can still be done through the magic of technology and with the help of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, as they bring the opportunity to watch over 100 films, including 13 world premieres, on whatever size screen you can manage!

The 19th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival takes place Jan. 14 through Jan. 24, 2021 with over 100 environmental and adventure films, activist workshops, programs for youth, an art exhibition, and the opportunity to meet filmmakers – all presented online.

Festival Producer Eric Dunn said the event, which is the largest fundraiser for South Yuba River Citizen’s League, is going completely virtual.

“We made the decision to go all virtual pretty early on and we are feeling good about the decision,” said Dunn. “We have been able to put ourselves into planning and sculpting this new format for the festival.”

Leaders of the organization decided to move forward with a virtual event to bring the festival’s tagline “Where activism gets inspired” to life. Dunn said, “I think that in a crazy year like this and crazy times overall, we could all use some inspiration. And not only that, the environmental movement, environmental justice movement, those things don’t stop because of a pandemic or because of politics. They are always important, and even more so in times like these. We felt it was important to bring these messages to inspire activism and interest in these subjects.” Support of the community and support of SYRCL is also vital.

With a virtual event, many limitations have been removed including the overall reach of the films.

“In making the most of the situation, we feel this is a great year to expand the scope of who is able to be part of this and who is able to get these films in front of them or engage in the workshops and other programming,” said Dunn. “Hopefully, that leads to Wild & Scenic coming back in 2022 bigger and better than ever, having garnered a bunch of new folks who didn’t know about the festival before, who will be inspired to come up to western Nevada County and spend some money and engage in our community in a physical festival in the future.”

As with past festivals, there will still be free programming such as Activist Center Workshops, an Art Exhibition, and the Enviro Fair. There are self-guided excursions available and even an online beer and Kombucha tasting! Many elements encourage community engagement – even without the purchase of a festival pass – though that is encouraged.

The festival programming still has thematic tracks and this year there are several pass options to consider, from single sessions to the Watershed Pass which includes the entire festival. Many of the films will be available on demand while others come with restrictions such as availability and caps on the number of viewers in a session. Each session is about an hour and a half long and includes three to six films of varying length.

Some of the featured films at the 2021 festival have local interest including “Rise Beyond Gold” about the proposal to reopen a relic gold mine in Nevada County; “The Hidden Bear” which takes viewers down eight and a half miles of the Bear River that would be flooded by the Centennial Dam project; the Ron Howard film, “Rebuilding Paradise” which showcases the devastating 2018 Camp Fire, and a film featuring a local craftsman on the San Juan Ridge, “The Local Woods.”

The “Wild Child” session is taking the place of the Saturday morning programming that happened at the Del Oro. There is a film focused on a group of black female mountain bikers “Pedal Through” which is in line with the focus of highlighting stories not traditionally featured in the outdoor world and many award winning environmental not-to-be-missed films.

Dunn said most of the films are available to watch anytime during the 11-day window of the festival. “Most of the film sessions are available on demand. There are only a handful of sessions that have some kind of restriction, be it when, or how many people can view it, that kind of thing, so most of these sessions are available to watch anytime during the festival window from the 14th through the 24th. We really tried to make things flexible for folks so they can get their dose of inspiration on their own schedule.” There are also age based programs with curriculum available.

For those who may not have the best internet quality available, a special “Staycation” package is being offered by Courtyard Suites with plenty of wi-fi included in the stay. And Three Forks Bakery and Brewery is offering meal packages during the festival.

The art exhibition is inspired by the 2021 Festival theme, “Resilient by Nature” and is in partnership with the Nevada County Arts Council. The online exhibition includes local as well as international artists.

Filmmaker Q&A sessions will be available. There will be a virtual lobby via Zoom of filmmakers and special guests as a way to engage, and there will be happy hours and chat rooms as well.

“We have workshops about everything from river restoration with some of our SYRCL crew to great talks about diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoor space and we are also excited to have the President of Earthjustice joining us to talk about the legal work they are doing as we turn the calendar into 2021,” said Dunn. Dunn encourages people to go to the website to explore the many choices available throughout the festival.

“I hate to get ahead of myself, but I am cautiously optimistic we will gather in the streets again next January and I look forward to that,” said Dunn. “But we have to see the upside in all of these things, and we worked to make the most of it and still get these stories in front of folks. That is the name of game. I have heard several people speak to the idea that surviving is thriving in 2020.”

Go to https://wsff.eventive.org to explore the films, workshops, and other offerings of the 2021 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@ gmail.com.


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