The traveling Wild & Scenic Film Festival brings nature to the big screen

“Climbing Out of Disaster” features a band of courageous climbers
Photo by Dominic Gill

The Mono Lake Committee sponsors a tour stop of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center this Thursday. Showcasing 13 films lauding nature and community, the festival features everything from two-minute micro films to 15-minute shorts on topics such as skiing, biking, moon-viewing, newts and fly-fishing. Along with raising environmental awareness, the event raises funds to send at-risk L.A. youth to Mono Lake for outdoor community-building experiences.

The most poignant entry may be “For the Love of Mary,” about 97-year-old George Etzweiler, a lovely gentleman running, sometimes walking — and, with help, finishing — the 7.6-mile, uphill Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire for his late wife. Prayer runners unite in “Sacred Strides,” about an 800-mile run undertaken by various tribes last March to Utah’s threatened Bears Ears National Monument. The visually striking images of Sriram Murali’s “Lost in Light,” largely filmed in California, demonstrate just how much beauty light pollution robs us of witnessing. Dr. Konrad Steffen’s revelations about glacial melts’ contributions to global sea level rise make “Greenland Melts” necessary viewing.

“Climbing Out of Disaster” earned Best Short honors at the festival’s annual awards gathering in January, likely thanks to sharp editing and charismatic protagonist Bryant Huffman. Filmed in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the film tracks Huffman and fellow rock climbers as they literally wrest triumph from adversity. “Imagine a nuclear bomb of water and wind,” Huffman says over footage of neighborhoods decimated by the storm. The climbers are shown scrambling up fallen trees and wielding chainsaws to help neighbors and towns in need. “Maria made us realize the duality of things,” Huffman observes. “Even when you think it’s the worst-case scenario, there’s always something positive out of it.”

— Bliss Bowen

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival happens from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday (March 7) at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $8 to $50 at eventbrite.com.

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