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Film fest ends up wild, scenic and funny

While balance is the key to a sustainable environment, the same can be said about a two-day environmental film festival.

And the second annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival held in Nevada City Friday and Saturday delivered just the right amount of alarm and levity. Hours of films focusing on threats from overfishing, genetically altered crops, deforestation and a myriad of environmental scourges were enough to make even the most earth-conscious festival-goer’s head spin.

But the sheer beauty of Yosemite’s granite walls, the majesty of Tibet, the desolate splendor of the eastern Sierra Nevada, creatures big and small, and a healthy dose of humor were a Technicolor reminder that all is not lost.



“We sold thousands of tickets and had to turn hundreds away before and during the festival,” said Janet Cohen, SYRCL executive director. “The festival has grown exponentially since last year. We’re hoping to make Nevada City a famous film festival venue.”

And then there was Daryl Hannah, actress and, at first glance, an unlikely advocate of something called biodiesel. Hannah was at the festival, sponsored by the South Yuba River Citizens League, to screen “French Fries…To Go,” a light-hearted documentary on the efforts of Telluride resident Charris Ford to educate people about the ability of used French fry grease to power cars, trucks and buses.




It was Hannah and Ford’s first visit to Nevada City, and they liked what they saw.

“It is a beautiful place,” Hannah said at the end of the festival in the Nevada Theatre. “The town and people here are wonderful.”

Her appearance at the festival is just one more stop on her and Ford’s campaign to inform people about biodiesel and its ability to help get the country off its dependence on fossil fuels. She has appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor,” the “Tonight Show,” and other forums to spread the word.

“People in the general public don’t know this is possible,” Hannah said. “Big business is never going to lead us in this direction.”

Ford noted that a longtime advocate of biodiesel, Graham Noise, lives in Nevada County. With people like Hannah, Noise and others working to educate, the interest in biodiesel and other alternative fuel sources will grow, Ford said. Already, inquiries about his Grassolean Solutions (www.grassolean.com), which focuses on sustainable energy and products, is “outrageous,” he said.

“We’re having a hard time keeping up with the interest,” Ford said.

One way to educate the public about issues and innovations is at events like the mountain film festivals in Banff and Telluride, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, and now, for the second year, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City.

San Francisco filmmaker Frank Green premiered his latest project, “Counting Sheep,” Saturday. The film focuses on endangered big horn sheep in the high Sierra, the protected mountain lions that prey upon them, and the awe-inspiring landscape of the Range of Light. Green’s film won the first annual People’s Choice Award, according to SYRCL/River People Director Kathy Dotson.

“During a project I’m a hermit,” Green said. “To come here, where there are a lot of sophisticated people, is very exciting.”

Green isn’t new to the foothills of the Sierra or Nevada City. His grandfather was married in town and in the film “El Dorado,” he chronicled the lives of two timberworkers and two environmentalists in El Dorado County. “El Dorado” won the Best Film Award on Mountain Environment at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 1997.

“You fight the battle on many fronts,” Green said, waving his hand over the festival crowd at the Nevada Theater Saturday. “This is part of what you are fighting for.”

Dotson said the festival’s Best Entry award was given to “Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite’s Last Valley.” The final award, Best of the Fest, was given to the film “Pale Male,” a film about a redtail hawk living in Central Park in New York.


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