Wild and Scenic Film Festival visits Wyoming towns

A group of kids united by their fight to save their favorite state park. The beauty of alpenglow, perhaps nature’s most beautiful light, caught in remote lands most of us will never see in person. A town impacted by nearby uranium mining.

Kelsey Dayton

These are the bases of several films that are part of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, a festival that brings stories about advocacy, adventure and the environment to towns around the United States.

The festival is coming to Sheridan, Lander and Riverton this month.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival started as a screening of documentaries at  events of the South Yuba River Citizens League — a California conservation group. The films were so popular people asked how they could share them in their hometowns, said Lori Van Laanen, manager of the festival tour. So six years ago the nonprofit put the films on tour and the festival has been growing in popularity ever since. It is now recognized as one of the premier outdoor film festivals.

Last spring protesters in Patagonia launched the biggest anti-dam demonstrations in the country’s history. “Streams of Consequence” shows the protests and also works to answer questions about alternative energy. It is one of several films that will screen in Wyoming as part of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. (Photo Courtesy “Streams of Consequence”)

The organization received more than 350 film submissions this year. Eighty were picked for the tour, tackling environmental issues, climate change, conservation and adventure. Organizations select from those the ones they want to show in their community.

“It’s our mission that the film festival is meant to inspire people and unite communities to heal the Earth,” Van Laanen said.

In Wyoming, Patagonia has partnered with organizations to bring the festival to several communities.

This is the second year the festival is visiting Sheridan, courtesy of the Powder River Basin Resource Council. The festival brings awareness to people about the council and is a way to gain more members, said Bill Bensel, organizer with the group.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival tackles topics like outdoor adventure, impacts of energy development and wildlife. (Photo Courtesy of “Eyes in the Forest, the Portraiture of Jim Lawrence”)

It also provides entertainment in line with the council’s mission, rather than the “blow ‘em up action” movies that dominate the theater, Bensel said.

“These films have a value-laden story,” he said. “We may see beautiful place and water falls and eye candy, but underneath it there is something that people need to be aware of. … (The films) open up people’s eyes.”

There will be two showings in Sheridan, with different films at each. The first focuses on water and renewable energy, Bensel said. The second showing’s theme is forests and wildlife. There will be raffles and prize giveaways at both screenings from local sponsors.

In Lander and Riverton the festival is sponsored by Wild Iris and the Wyoming Outdoor Council. The same films will play in both towns.

“This is one of the things that makes Lander a really cool place,” said Emily Tilden, assistant manager at Wild Iris.

“Last Light” is one of many films you can catch in April at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. The festival is making stops in Sheridan, Riverton and Lander this month. (Photo Courtesy “Last Light”)

It is the first time the festival has screened in Riverton, which will allow easier access to the festival for that community as well as Central Wyoming College.

The variety of films will appeal to different viewers. One film, “Tailings,” is about the impacts of uranium on a small town in New Mexico. Another film, “Sand Rider,” follows a snowboarder who spends his summers earning turns on sand dunes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. “The Last Ice Merchant,” is the story of a man and his brothers who for decades harvested and sold ice from a mountain in Ecuador.

The film festival is a way to get people engaged in the environment, Tilden said.

“I think this is a really palatable way to find out what’s going on in our environment and how it impacts recreation,” she said.

Like in Sheridan, the film is meant to attract new members to the sponsoring organization, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said Linda Sisco, administrative coordinator with the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

In addition to the films showing there will be a chance to learn about what the outdoor council does in Wyoming.

Sisco hopes people leave feeling empowered.

“It’s a reminder somebody can always do something to help out,” she said.

Check it out

Sheridan

  • When: 4:30 and 7 p.m. April 17
  • Where: Centennial Theater in Sheridan
  • How much: $10

Riverton

  • When: 6:30 p.m. April 25
  • Where: Little Theater at Central Wyoming College
  • How much: $8 in advance, $12 at the door, $5 students, free with a first time Wyoming Outdoor Council Membership

Lander

  • When: 6:30 p.m. April 26
  • Where: Monarch Room
  • How much: $8 in advance, $12 at the door, $5 students, free with first time Wyoming Outdoor Council Membership

— “Peaks to Plains” is a blog focusing on Wyoming’s outdoors and communities. Kelsey Dayton is a freelance writer based in Lander. She has been a journalist in Wyoming for seven years, reporting for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Casper Star-Tribune and the Gillette News-Record. Contact Kelsey at kelsey.dayton@gmail.com. Follower her on twitter @Kelsey_Dayton

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Kelsey Dayton

Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide...

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