Letters from the Wild & Scenic School Program

January 20, 2012

Students from the Grass Valley Charter School wrote letters to SYRCL after the Wild & Scenic Film Festival School Program on Friday, January 13th. These letters is proof that film is in an inspirational medium no matter your age.

January 13th, 2012


Thank you for letting us watch the short films from the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Monster Fish was one of my favorites by far. My favorite was the giant stingray and her offspring. Zeb showed stewardship and compassion by letting them go.

The film about the White Salmon River was inspirational. I’ve always wanted to go kayaking over waterfalls. They showed a lot of stewardship in trying to have the dam taken down. Plastic Art was really creative. Not only did they clean up the beach, but they made it into art for the community. That showed compassion for the earth and for doing what they love. Invasion of the Alien Fish showed a lot of stewardship and responsibility. It took responsibility because the people who released the lionfish had to be responsible for what bad they had done and they helped take care of the problem. The Majestic Plastic Bag was the funniest. The little plastic bag had to show some courage to face the dangerous journey to the Garbage Patch. It was inspirational,  TO RECYCLE MORE!

Thanks again,


5th Grade

Grass Valley Charter School

January 13th, 2012


Thank you for putting on the Wild and Scenic Film Festival for schools. I think the people from “The Invasion of Alien Fish” showed stewardship for the Atlantic coral reefs by trying to take the lionfish out of that area. I wish I could travel across the state to help them.

But out of all the films, my favorite one was “The majestic Plastic Bag.” It was SO funny! My favorite part was when the guy said, “One of nature’s most deadliest killers: the Yorkie. It fastens its jaws around its victim…” That was hilarious!

I think it was a good idea to make a funny short and get people aware of that plastic island and how plastic bags are dangerous to the environment.

I loved your film festival.



Salmon Parade


January 13th, 2012


Thank you for letting us go to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival! My two favorite were “Gloop” and “The Majestic Plastic Bag.” “Gloop” was extremely creepy and the “Majestic Plastic Bag” was over the top funny.

I didn’t know that a plastic bag was so unique in it’s own way and how it traveled to the ocean.

It was funny seeing a plastic bag family reunion! It was cool seeing the guy from a show I watch. I am really looking forward to seeing the film festival on the weekend!



Salmon Parade

January 13th, 2012


Thank you for letting me go to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Some of the videos were funny and some inspired me. In “Monster Fish,” I learned to be careful and aware of fish. I now realize that when a big cool fish that I like gets extinct it is partly my fault. My favorite big fish was the one that has been alive since the dinosaurs were romping on earth. I also am fascinated in the lionfish one. It helped me learn a lot.

I am defiantly going to study big fish and help. I already started an Save the Earth club and Save the Fish.

Sincerely your big fan,



Occupy Confluences at Wild & Scenic

January 19, 2012

This week’s guest blogger is Carolyn Crane, a writer living in Nevada City. After working for years as a radio journalist and commentator, she became inspired by the local food movement and created Lightcap Farm, which is both a real farm and a word farm. For more of her blog, click here.

On the opening night of Wild and Scenic, John Trudell addressed a packed house at the Nevada Theatre. I’ve heard him speak before, even spoken with him. His words are so potent, his message so rich, it’s difficult to paraphrase, or even absorb it in one pass. Twice during the festival people quoted him from that night, but those particular points had washed over me as I absorbed the one that came before. (If anyone has an audio recording or a transcript of his talk that night, please let me know!)

That night, Trudell spoke about systems. Systems that are in place in our society that serve to imprison and control us. Two examples he used were the military system and the system of organized religion. When someone asked him about the Occupy movement, he was openly ambivalent. First he said, we need to be careful that our actions of protest do not feed those systems. When cops are called to police a riot, for instance, the protestors are actually feeding the system by requiring the need for the cops. He pointed out that this last Black Friday, Americans spent more money than ever. This feeds the system of corporate commercialism, and goes against the very essence of Occupy. He asked us to think about this, and to embrace change in a way that starved the system. “If the 99% all agreed to not buy anything for one whole day…” he mused. With him, we imagined that, and imagined creating new systems, and what they might look like.

John Trudell talks about systems at opening night of Wild and Scenic. 

The next day at Wild and Scenic, Occupy Nevada County hosted a street fair on Commercial Street, right by the parklet. Street theatre and a puppet show were the highlights of the afternoon. As I wandered through their displays and watched the entertainment, I thought about Trudell’s comments and the general criticism that Occupy lacks focus and commitment–on a national level at least. But that day, at that protest, I saw loads of both. Maybe that’s why our little town’s Occupy movement has made national news. It was focus that got that attention, focus on the epidemic of foreclosures in our community.

The focus that landed Occupy Nevada County on The Rachel Maddow Show 

Occupy Nevada County’s Puppet Show: The Three Pigs … 

…and the loan wolf. 

I had a great dinner with friends and chosen family that night, took a breath from festival life. We talked for awhile about democracy: when it worked and when it didn’t, agreeing that it works okay when the system is small, intimate even, and when the parties involved deeply care about and need one another. Once people can be objectified and made dispensable, democracy quickly evaporates. I fell asleep thinking about Trudell’s words and about systems old and yet uninvented.

The next morning I headed to City Hall to see Jason Rainey, Derek Hitchcock, and Mark Dubois give a talk about a new watershed governance system. Rainey, former executive director of SYRCL, has relocated to the Bay Area to work at International Rivers in the same capacity. He asked us to suspend our judgement and skepticism a moment, and imagine a whole new system, a system that “honored the blue lines on the map” for once. Derek Hitchcock, mentioned off the top that Trudell’s talk had greatly impacted him. Mark Dubois called upon us to be compassionate and inclusive rather than catty and judgmental (always a trick for humans). Here is Hitchcock’s proposal for a new system, a grass-roots, built from the bottom way to manage our watersheds and ourselves in the process.

Level One: Tributary Watershed Guilds. Every creek and stream would be stewarded by those around it, who would meet biweekly or monthly to discuss hazards and opportunities for the watershed that they called home. We see these types of guilds here in our community: Friends of Deer Creek, Wolf Creek Alliance, and the newly formed group trying to work out differences along Rush Creek.

Level Two: Each tributary guild would send a representative to a Sub Basin Guild. For us, this would encompass the South Yuba River basin.

Level Three: Each Level Two group would send a representative to the Yuba Watershed/Bear Watershed Guild. Groups like SYRCL and Yuba Watershed Institute are the nearest organizations we have to this type of guild, they just aren’t inherently built from the bottom up as Hitchcock proposes.

Level Four: This guild would get its representation the same way, from the level below it, and would encompass the foothills, mountains, central valley, and delta.

Level Five: The San Francisco Watershed Guild.

It’s somewhat stupefying to imagine a system that doesn’t exist. In the moments before the Q and A, I found myself growing excited. I began to think about the watershed up at the farm, which sits atop the San Juan Ridge. Our actions there affect two separate watersheds: runoff from the front half of the property goes to the South Fork of the Yuba, runoff from the back heads down to the Middle Fork. I began to scan my mind for the nearest creek to the farm: Bloody Run Creek. “What can you do?” Mark Dubois was asking us. “Walk your tributary. Get to know it. Talk to your neighbors.” I felt a flash of light and recognition in my brain. I don’t know how to snap my fingers and make Hitchcock’s system appear, but I know how to walk along Bloody Run Creek, and I know how to talk to my neighbors. Neither of those feeds the systems that I am finding problematic.

The Q and A quickly disintegrated, however, into a broad, theoretical conversation whose participants were hung up on verbiage and biases. “Focus! Focus!” the panelists encouraged the audience, and I thought again of Occupy.

A couple weeks ago I listened to an old recording of Utah Phillips talking about why the Progressives succeeded in the earlier part of the 20th century. “We put our differences aside,” he said simply. If we can learn to do that, and be tolerant and compassionate with one another, perhaps we can create an effective system that honors the blue lines in the map and allows creatures of all kinds to thrive.

from left to right: Mark DuBois, Derek Hitchcock, and Jason Rainey

Jason Rainey says that rivers are magical to us, in part, because of the power a confluence brings to any situation. A confluence is literally powerful, and metaphorically as well: ideas and attitudes come together with force, with volition. Compromise is essential, and the power of the river grows from the bottom up.

I have a lot to learn about Bloody Run Creek.



Chuck Jaffee’s Review of Just Do It, The Last Mountain, Poppy’s Promise and Schooling the World

January 6, 2012

Editor’s note: Chuck Jaffee, of Nevada City, continues his years of writing a series of reviews for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.  Find his other movie, film festival, and related reviews at www.startlets.com.

Just Do It: A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws

Just Do It

“Have a cup o’ tea,” she’ll offer, in her oh so British way, to police and other agents of corporate stoked domination.  She can get testy though, like the time police tried to shove her off a protest encampment without letting her pick up her kettle. “It has to be fun and exciting and good friends,” she’ll also offer, knowing that this does not contradict their serious place in the world.

These folks seem more assertive than most of their Occupy brethren, but with a kindred spirit of non-violence.  They seem more focused, with their actions against complicity in global climate change. The film runs a bit long and loosely assembled, but this hardly detracts from the personable vérité about something that will be marginalized by the media to everybody’s peril.

An insider look at what they do and why and how, “Just Do It” airs activism that is likely to become more widespread as the divide between the one percent and the ninety-nine becomes more wide spread.

The Last Mountain

The Last Mountain


Oh, no.  Another mountaintop removal movie.  What’s different about “The Last Mountain”?

For one, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. appears, demonstrating his activism. For another, it shows hundreds of people putting themselves in the way, willing to be arrested. These people face jail for small crimes needed to fight huge crimes against humanity. Also, “The Last Mountain” presents viable alternative energy that not only begins to replace costly and dangerous coal. It can create sustainable jobs in otherwise devastated areas.

Jobs. That’s the second most strident flag that coal supporters wave against protesters. Fact is, mountaintop removal slashes jobs.  Coal companies have systematically kept West Virginia one of the poorest states in the country while guys like former CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, made more than $150 million.  Massey pays around $30,000 in yearly taxes to the local county, whereas wind farms on local mountains would pay around one and a half million.

Coal keeps the lights on.  That’s the most strident flag that coal supporters wave against protesters.  True enough, but what does it mean, that this cheapest form of energy fuels half the country?  Heavily subsidized coal companies are not forced to pay for more than a tiny fraction of tens of thousands of violations of the law. They are not forced to pay for the illness and death they cause from pollution and flooding.  You don’t even have to get to the topic of global warming before common sense shouts, “There has to be a better way to keep the lights on. There are better ways to keep the lights on.”

Outside agitators. That’s one of the more effective ways of shouting down protesters.  Even though many local people fight for their lives and their children’s lives, it’s a national (actually, planetary) concern, and the real question is why not hear what outsiders have to say?

Anti-coal, especially mountaintop removal films, can feel daunting and tiresome, even somewhat old hat, as environmental films go, but “The Last Mountain” shows well that progressive action may be gaining traction. Anyway, big coal equals big badness more than anything you could choose to spotlight.

Poppy’s Promise: Secret Life of a Cornfield 

Poppy's Promise

The star of “Poppy’s Promise” is a hamster and her offspring. However, a wealth of creatures populates a film subtitled “Secret Life of a Cornfield.”  How crafty the filmmakers had to be to infiltrate the details of this secret.

With cameras installed inside a hamster’s burrow, we get to see hamster sex. (They must have edited out the X-rated parts.) Anyway, the female only tolerates the male a few days per year.

Mama hamster tends to her babies.  The babies mostly snuggle sleepily, punctuated by lively hunger and learning. Much cuteness is on display, be it mama busily stuffing her cheek pouches with seeds or babies transforming from hairless newborns to scurrying independents.

Top notch nature photography seems to have set up shop everywhere, high and low, in the teeming fields.   Rabbits mate (of course), but their boxing matches are more interesting.  Deer mate (of course), but their scampering through the grassland intones the art of their lives.

In a film like this, it’s the smaller creatures that elicit the most fascinating camera work. Gall flies mate (of course), but curiosity peaks more when the zigzag patterns on flayed wings scare off a predator spider.  A “roundabout” flower attracts a wasp and dusts it with pollen.  Attracting the wasp a second time, the pollen rubs off onto the flower that cleverly changed sex from male to female between visits.

A British narrator, with his soothing educational tone, sneaks in a few well photographed lessons about the benefits of organic farming. One lady bug eats up to 40,000 aphids, quite an alternative to chemical spraying.  Five hundred earthworms per square meter eat and poop, eat and poop, enriching chemical-free soil. A diversity of flowers thrives amidst the cornfield.

A fundamentally satisfying nature film, “Poppy’s Promise” has orchestrated a parade of birds, insects, flowers, and other players in a cycling dance of the seasons.

—- Q and A with the “Poppy’s Promise” filmmaker, Jan Haft —-

Chuck Jaffee: I have the nerve to think that a better title for your film would have been “Cornucopia,” because you display the abundant vitality of nature, such a horn of plenty.  Why did you choose a relatively minor piece of your film for the title, “Poppy’s Promise”?

Jan Haft: In Germany, documentaries traditionally have very descriptive titles. The German title translates to “The Cornfield – Jungle for one Summer.”  We felt the poppy comes back year after year, exactly what cornfield inhabitants must do, even if their habitat is “destroyed” each year when harvesting takes place.  We enjoy that films in the English speaking world often have cryptic and bloomy titles.

CJ: What did it feel like, capturing tiny and tucked away places?

JH: Many things were so rare that we had to travel quite a lot.  We drove 300 kilometers just to see a field with one rare species of flower. And we filmed many things we had never seen before. We had to gather a great deal of the information ourselves, for instance, finding out how long the natural processes take in various species and when flowers bloom.

CJ: Tell us a little bit about the vibrancy of the colors you put on screen, as well as the soothing, erudite tone of the narrator you chose.

JH: We always try to run the camera after dusk and before dawn, when colors are most intensive and contrasts are low. We run our HD Cams with a reduced detail level, so the footage appears soft and smooth. We avoided enhanced sharpness to capture a warm and somewhat dream-like style. For a narrator, we also sought that warm feeling of “good old times” (or, maybe, “good new times” to come).

CJ: You seem to have tread lightly talking about organic farming and any message of sustainability.  Do you feel this was an important and effective film making choice?

JH: We discussed this in making the film. We felt it was enough to show what lived and could live in an organic farming landscape.  We felt that things such as bio-diversity loss and the push for cheaper agricultural production would find its way into the film well enough.

CJ: Why do you think there is such a ready audience for yet another nature film filled with flowers and bugs and creatures big and small?

JH: Our motto is, “Show the unknown within the well known.” We find that people like to see an environment they know well, and at the same time, hear stories they never heard before. It is just like getting news about your neighbors. That is much more likely to attract your interest than news about people you don´t know.

Schooling the World

Schooling the World

This is a movie review of “Schooling the World.”  I won’t tell you anything about it. See it.

While you’re here…. I am very well educated.  Yet, there is so much I don’t understand.

For instance, there are individuals in the world who have billions of dollars.  I don’t mean I don’t understand how that could be fair.  Well, that, too.

I mean, I can’t really comprehend billions of dollars, and I definitely don’t get it that any single person has that many of them.  It’s a number on a piece of paper, right? I mean, after the 20,000 square foot house and the fully staffed personal jet and the $5,000 bottle of wine, it’s numbers on a piece of paper, right? It isn’t a pile of dollars somewhere.

There are more than 6 billion people in the world.  About 80% of them live on less than ten dollars per day. About 40% of them live on less than two dollars per day.  I don’t mean I don’t understand how that could be fair.  Well, that, too.

I mean, I can’t really comprehend billions of people, and I definitely don’t get it that any single person can survive on less than two dollars per day.  Each of these people has this amount of money, and they pay it to various other people. Does that happen?  That money actually pays for food and clothes and shelter and anything else that costs money to live a life? I don’t understand the arithmetic.

Millions of people pay more than two and a half billion people less than two dollars per day – to do what? (And can it be done without billionaires?)  I don’t understand.

This is a movie review of “Schooling the World.”  I won’t tell you anything about it. See it.

— Chuck Jaffee



An Inside Look at the Awards Jury

December 29, 2011

Our Head Juror, Alison Jones-Pomatto, gives the inside scoop on how the Wild & Scenic Film Festival’s jury decides which of our official selections are award winners.

Alison Jones-Pomatto

With the retirement of the incomparable Chuck Jaffee, I am the head juror for the 2012 Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival.  I have been privileged to serve on the jury for the past three years and have seen some really outstanding and inspiring films. Being on the jury is a great job.  We get to select the award winning films that will be announced at the Awards Ceremony.  But how do we get to that point?

This year, 350 films were submitted for consideration for the Festival.  Some are made by professionals with big money sponsorship, others by first time filmmakers exploring their passion on their own dime.  A very committed selection panel watched ALL of them.  They then chose 110+ Official Selections that will be presented over the three days of the Festival.  Of these, 37 were selected for consideration by the panel of jurors.  Our panel is made up of activists and filmmakers who have a strong understanding of what elements make a good film and definite opinions on what we each like.

In the past, the Festival organizers burned countless discs of every film that the jurors watched on their own.  But we are an environmental film festival and that was incredibly wasteful.  So this year, we are using Vimeo.  All of the films have been uploaded to the Vimeo website and we each download them and watch them at our leisure. There is no waste and it is very easy and portable.  I watched several films on very rainy days on Kauai in December. Granted, we are watching the films on a computer screen that doesn’t do justice to some of the spectacular cinematography in some of our films, but as all the films are watched on the same small screen, when one really stands out, we know it is a winner.

So while all of you have been rushing around in holiday mode, the Wild and Scenic jury has been busy watching our 37 films.  We each rank them then will soon meet to discuss the films and assign the awards of Best of Festival, Spirit of Activism, Most Inspiring Adventure Film, Best Short Short, along with three Jury Awards and Honorable Mentions.  The jurors’ discussion is one of my favorite parts of judging.  We all come in with our strong opinions but the ensuing conversation is lively and leads to an often, unexpected consensus.

What films will be selected as award winners for the 10th Annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival?  Join the filmmakers and film lovers at the Awards Ceremony at 4:15pm on Saturday, January 14th at the Stone Hall in the Miners Foundry and find out!

– Alison Jones-Pomatto



Chuck Jaffee’s Review of Buck, California Forever & Food Stamped

December 28, 2011

Editor’s note: Chuck Jaffee, of Nevada City, continues his years of writing a series of reviews for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.  Find his other movie, film festival, and related reviews at www.startlets.com.

This set of reviews basks in a bunch of the films in the festival.  The film festival is held in historic Nevada City, which feels so right as the home for this brouhaha.  Besides all the film venues, there’s music, parties, art shows, wine strolls, workshops, and maybe the best thing, lots of filmmakers adding to the vibrancy of the festival.

Marking its run into double digits, this 10th annual event, once again, shows its community heart and global soul.  The commitment to awareness raising and activism, to adventure and fun … it’s palpable. The quality and variety shines. Take advantage of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, January 13, 14, and 15.


On the set of the film “The Horse Whisperer,” Buck Brannaman said to Robert Redford, “If this movie thing doesn’t work out for you, I think you could make a living doing this.”  Redford may be good with horses and good at making films, but it’s the title subject of the documentary “Buck” that’s the real horse whisperer.

In 20 minutes, Buck gentled his horse through a tender scene with Scarlett Johansson. The equine actor cast in the role couldn’t pull it off in eight hours.

Redford said he could tell that Buck was the real deal almost as soon as he met him. What makes this man and the movie “Buck” so appealing is his tone as much as his capability with horses.

A fellow horseman said, “I’ve never actually seen him whisper to a horse,” but in every clinic Buck gives for 40 weeks per year, everyone sees him being firm but gentle. He disciplines but encourages. In remarkably little time he translates his mastery into a “soft feel.”

Buck uses a tag line familiar from “The Horse Whisperer”: Asked if he helps people with horse problems, the reply, “I help horses with people problems.”  The film, “Buck,” puts just the right amount of emphasis on his childhood.  His abusive father beat him and his brother for years until a coach at school and a sheriff found out and stopped it.

This born-to-be cowboy knows he learned from his past. He made choices. He’s been sharing those choices for decades, and you don’t need to be a horse person to feel uplifted by the opportunity to spend 90 minutes watching “Buck.”


“California Forever”

With or without a fiscal crisis miring the California State Park system, these natural and historic places deserve the kind of attention paid in the documentary “California Forever.”

It starts with an old timey re-creation of discovering giant sequoias and the Yosemite Valley.  In a sense, trees trump 3000 foot high granite walls.  Two and three hundred foot tall plants inspire us with the fact of their living spirit.  They connect us to people and events in the distant past. They connect us to California’s growth.

People like Frederick Law Olmsted (Sr. and Jr., each in his time) foresaw the clear cutting of old growth forests, the trashing of spectacular attractions and compelling wilderness. They recognized that even protected areas must be managed.  They knew hundreds of visitors would someday be millions of visitors.

Because of the vision of many such heroes, about 600 miles of California’s 1200 miles of coastline is protected (300 miles, state; 300 federal).  How easily the access could have been constricted by manifest commercial destiny.

Because of the committed rallying of a wide range of people, more than 250 special places in California have been preserved.  These include massive tracts of unfathomable desert charm and a necessary remembrance of decimated indigenous populations.  These embrace undeniable wonders and modest strongholds. They invigorate human spirit with a counterpoint to fettered lives.  These represent, perhaps, democracy at its finest.  “Access to natural wonders,” Olmsted said, “should not be the exclusive domain of the wealthy.

“California Forever” does well summarizing centuries of history and millions of square miles. Not quite up to the standard set by Ken Burns, this documentary leverages the Burns style commendably.  This visit, this reminder, is an image-rich trip to the movies.  Whether it plants a seed or stirs activism, it is an important spirit to keep in mind.


“Food Stamped”

Shira and Yoav Potash treated themselves to a modest restaurant meal the day before the experiment started. What they spent amounted to half their food budget for the following seven days.

The experiment in the film “Food Stamped”: to eat healthy for one week, spending only food stamps. Their allocated amount was $49 for two people. They didn’t skip a meal. That’s $1.20 per person per meal – and no snacks.

A US Congressman, who also experienced this challenge, said, “I don’t want to see any more lentils as long as I live.”  Shira and Yoav ate a fairly varied, interesting diet for their week.  They exercised a great deal of planning and effort, including food preparation time. They also had access and awareness that people who need food stamps typically don’t.

This cute couple also knew it would end after seven days. Shira is a nutritionist and teacher. Yoav is a cooperative husband as long as he could be a wise guy all week. They also supplemented their diet by finding some free samples and adding one taste of dumpster diving.

Influence lurks in an affluent country where one of eight people is eligible for food stamps. We (taxpayers) subsidize big companies to make big profits producing and selling sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup) and fat (especially hydrogenated).

The cheapest, most accessible and most heavily marketed foods are the least nutritious.  Fruits and vegetables cost more in large part because these foods are not on corporate welfare and have nowhere near the advertising budget.

Watch “Food Stamped” because Shira and Yoav are an informative, interesting and engaging couple. Watch “Food Stamped” because there was not a single dessert budgeted for the entire week (although Shira brought her hubbie a few brownie pieces, free samples from the supermarket).

—————— Q and A with the filmmakers and “stars” of “Food Stamped” ————–

Chuck Jaffee: If you had to pick one thing from all you covered in “Food Stamped,” what would that one thing be?

Yoav Potash: Do you mean one thing we ate? Enough with the lentils already.

Shira Potash: Well, that leaves me to focus on issues. The Farm Bill connects to food insecurity and the obesity epidemic, so perhaps that would be the issue. But also we felt examples of hope in the community. My favorite scenes are people in a low-income area [Watts] embracing fresh, healthy food in a way that I think surprises people.

Yoav Potash: That was more than one thing.

CJ: You delivered a fairly sober, heavy topic with a sense of adventure and fun, not to mention that one of the two of you is quite a wise guy.  How important and how difficult was it to establish the right tone for the film?

SP: What do you mean ONE of us is funny?

YP: He must be talking about you.

SP: Definitely. But we both agreed that it was crucial that the film be educational but entertaining as well.  So many documentaries turn people off because they sort of lecture the audience.

YP: Right, we knew that if we could approach our audience in a more down to earth way and get people to laugh, then we could engage them more.

SP: So we were just trying to be ourselves, and yeah, for Yoav, that means being a goofball, cooking in his bathrobe, and cracking jokes.

CJ: You lived, eating healthy, on a meager food-stamp-only diet, but you only had to do it for a week. On balance, how much of your experience about food and culture was a daunting eye opener and how much held inspiration for you?

SP: I was inspired to do this to prove to my cooking classes that it was possible to eat healthy on a food stamp budget.  With all of my nutrition and cooking know-how and our access to affordable healthy food (and the fact that we don’t have children), in some ways it was more challenging than I expected.  But the daunting part is really what people have to go through who don’t have those advantages.

YP: [Like, there are] people who don’t have a car and who live in an area where the nearest grocery store is ten miles away.

CJ: What was the hardest thing about getting through that disciplined week?

YP: Definitely the hardest thing was getting into stupid fights about things like who was eating more peanut butter.

SP: You were eating more peanut butter!

YP: I know I was, but in a normal week we don’t have to fight about it.

SP: Well, there you go. The hardest thing was making sure my husband didn’t eat everything … which was an extension of having to plan and ration all of our meals.

CJ: One of the reasons the film works, is that you are a cute, loving couple.  Did making “Food Stamped” make you cuter and more loving?

SP: Aw, thanks.  We were newlyweds when we made it.  It’s nice for us to have that reflection back from our audiences.

YP: I think we were just trying to have some fun along the way. But now when our friends are over for dinner, and they help us out in the kitchen, they say “Hey, I feel like I’m in FOOD STAMPED.”


— Chuck Jaffee


Chuck Jaffee’s reviews of Rock the Boat, Towers of the Ennedi and Cold

December 22, 2011

Chuck Jaffee plays an essential role in the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. As a past Head Juror and as a key player in the film selection process, Chuck’s film experience ensures our film selections have the quality and diversity required to create a successful festival.

Rolling Down the River [“Rock the Boat“]

Sometimes what makes it an adventure is not the risk of drowning or getting hurt. Sometimes adventure means risking arrest or harassment.

In the case of one set of kayakers and canoeists (canoes, how tough could it be), they paddled 51 miles in three days down a catch 22. Some government officials said the Los Angeles River was navigable. Others said it was incompatible with navigation. Whatever that means, the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t grant permits.

Most often, a paddling adventure in the Wild & Scenic Film Festival shows that a river CAN be run. “Rock the Boat” shows that a river MAY be run. In the only confrontation with the cops, the adventurers sidled along on a technicality/fib/oversight. After their journey, the Los Angeles River was officially declared navigable.

What’s the significance? Compliments of the wording in the Clean Water Act, only navigable rivers might receive environmental protection. With channelized (spelled “concrete”) rivers in just about every major urban area in the United States, that’s a flood of significance.

Watch the seekers in “Rock the Boat” test governmental waters with politeness. Watch playful, earnest people discover an unlikely experience of urban nature for now and tomorrow. Watch the citizens communicate that Los Angeles could save more than 50 percent of its water bill by restoring a watershed currently orchestrated solely to push runoff and storm water to the ocean as fast as possible.

Filming paddlers typically makes the phrase “go with the flow” an adrenalin boiler through exotic locations. Mixed into the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, “Rock the Boat” entices us with an as yet uncharted, homegrown journey to the future.

Rock on Desert [“Towers of the Ennedi“]

Some experiences are not about complete sentences. When you watch the 13 minutes of insane magic in “Towers of the Ennedi,” it can’t be about knowing what these guys’ lives are. How can you know them just because someone added film art to the mix? It is a swirled combination of metaphor and fact. It is dedicated play. The connection to extreme adventure comes closer to making sense using snatches of words and phrases.

Bone. Beetle. Sun. Camels. The Ennedi Desert. 500 roadless miles. Remote, even for Chad in central Africa. Dust. Broken car parts. Sand. Pushing. When already? Tents. Stars. Spires of rock. Pictographs. Oil paintings. First Ascents. Synnott, age 40. Honnold and Pearson in their twenties. A balance found in crazy, risky trips. Dicey rock. Better than expected rock. Solo ascents. Pairings. Three tops. Quick. Slow. Another. Another. Hundreds of feet down. 360 degrees around. Arches. THE arch, the delicate arch. A lifetime of rock to climb.

They peppered a rockatecture, remote desert oasis with firsts. Sure, our lives are sleepy by comparison, but watching “Towers of the Ennedi” sparks the synapses of vicarious dreams.

It’s Rocking Cold [“Cold“]

In the film “Cold,” a guy says, “What the ef am I doing here?” If there are situations with no reason to mince words, certainly this was one of them.

Showcasing nutsoid adventure extremes is a legacy of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. About ten percent of the films play to the adventure niche. The film “Cold” ascends to the extreme end of the extreme adventure realm. Firsts, such as first ascents, seem to appeal especially.

Apparently, sixteen expeditions by others failed to conquer an 8000 meter peak in Pakistan (over 26,000 feet). Mind you, the qualifying challenge includes doing it in winter. The three guys in “Cold” brought a camera to capture the lunacy of expedition #17. They didn’t bring oxygen, but they brought a camera.

Not only did they chronicle the title subject of the film, enduring daily temperatures of 20 below zero and 50 below zero. Not only did they document their torturous quest. They heightened the coverage with the near death experience that chased them on their return.

More than the physical feat, “Cold” accounts for the luck and the weather conditions that gel numbing commitment into fulfillment. Making what is essentially a home movie as far away from home as anyone can go, these three guys have added awarding winning film credits to their chilling accomplishments.

Visit Chuck Jaffee’s blog for reviews of other films featured in the 10th Wild & Scenic Film Festival, as well as official selections from the festival in years past.  You can also read the reviews in The Union and the Nevada City Advocate newspapers.



From Journalist to Activist: Inspiring Change

December 13, 2011

This week we feature a guest blog by Chris Jordan-Bloch, a multimedia producer, photographer and filmmaker for Earthjustice. He believes in the importance and power of visual storytelling, and it is his goal to tell the stories and show the personalities behind the cases and advocacy work of the organization. Two of his films, An Ill Wind and Finding Their Way are official selections for the 2012 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

A few years ago I was working as a photographer and videographer at a newspaper when I decided I wanted to start telling stories that would help bring about change rather than just report the news. I left my job with the hope that I would make films for non-profits and within a few months I was on staff in the Earthjustice communications department.

An Ill Wind

Since then, I’ve met and interviewed people who live on the front lines of some of our country’s most pressing environmental issues – people with mountain top removal sites in their backyard, hydraulic fracturing in their local park, mega-agriculture next to their school and coal plants outside their front door. They bear the environmental burden of our food and electricity and good fortune. Typically they are demanding something simple like cleaner air or cleaner water from an industrial neighbor who refuses to acknowledge the harm they are doing.

To know them and their fight for environmental justice is an incredible honor. However I can’t escape the fact that in many of these David and Goliath stories, Goliath is winning. It seems that by default we as a society have made a decision that placing profits over people is okay. Take for example the conundrum of coal ash and the havoc it is wreaking across America. Coal ash – the waste from coal plants – is treated with less regulation than the garbage we take to the curb every week. It contaminates water and air across America, and everywhere it is it leaves sick people in its wake.

Finding their Way

The simplest thing we could do is demand regulations that would ultimately result in people having to pay a few more cents for the waste resulting from our effortless ability to turn on lights – or leave on lights – whenever we please. A simple regulation that could result in a simple thing like cleaner air and cleaner water for people who live next to coal ash sites. However even that simplest thing is not granted. While legislators and regulators dicker over what to do, Americans citizens are suffering at the hands of something as simple as a light switch. So the real question becomes – Shouldn’t we have the sense to pay those few cents? Why are huge corporate interests making the decisions about what we as Americans are willing to pay for? It’s time we demanded more of politicians, regulators and business. It’s time we demanded more of ourselves. It’s time to flip the switch.

Chris Jordan-Bloch

For more about An Ill Wind and Finding Their Way, read more on Chris’s blog.


Our Film Venues

December 7, 2011

Prior to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, our film venues play their role in our small town: Nevada City Elementary is filled with Yuba River Charter School students, Oddfellows holds dance lessons, and Nevada Theatre is currently showing the Christmas Story. A change is gonna come, but for now, town is busy with those shopping during Victorian Christmas, rather than festival goers lining up outside these venues.

NC Elementary 505 Main Street

Vets Hall 415 N Pine St.

City Hall (Our Activist Center) 317 Broad St

Enter these doors festival weekend and visit our Workshops & Enviro Fair

Miners Foundry 325 Spring St

We screen films in both the Stone Hall and the Osborn/Wood Hall in Miners Foundry

Nevada Theatre 401 Broad St.


Sneak upstairs into Masons 108 1/2 N Pine St

Also upstairs: Oddfellows Hall at 212 Spring St

Oddfellows Hall

The Alpha Building: Our Headquarters 210 Broad St.

The Alpha Building: Our Headquarters 210 Broad St

SYRCL Office 216 Main Street Here we work to protect and restore the Yuba River and the Greater Yuba Watershed. SYRCL produces the Wild & Scenic as a fundraiser and a way to inspire activism within our community and across the nation.


Films Change Lives: Less Plastic and More Veggies

November 30, 2011

This week volunteer  Ronnie Paul shares how attending the Wild & Scenic Film Festival nine times has changed her life.  After each festival she shifts her lifestyle to become more environmentally responsible. How has the festival changed your life? Share on our Facebook wall.

This January, we celebrate the tenth year of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. In all this time, my husband, Jeff, and I have only missed one.

One of those years, we made plans to go to Mexico instead. Our last night of a wonderful two week vacation, we stood on a Caribbean beach at sunset watching an array of tropical colors sink into the ocean. The romance level was high, and as we gazed into each other’s eyes we said, “This was fabulous, but let’s not be away during the film festival again.” We haven’t missed one since.

For me, the films are thoughtful, provocative reminders of beauty, creativity, and conflict. At the end of each festival, I’m inspired  to change a habit that might help support a better world.

The film Bag It influenced Ronnie and many others to quit using plastic bags.

The first time I saw “Bag It,” two years ago, I vowed never to bring a plastic bag into the house again. Does one person’s effort make a difference? You bet it does. I’ve been asked in supermarket veggie sections and bulk food aisles where I’ve gotten my cheesecloth bags. I’ve said, “No” to plastic bags at clothing stores and been asked, “Why?” This may seem like a small dent in a large problem, but as someone who probably won’t chain myself to a tree in protest, I feel that at least I’m doing a little something.

Last year after watching a few food movies, I decided to grow more vegetables. We’ve always enjoyed a summer garden, but this year we expanded the season’s bounty into winter and spring. Yes, it takes more time and my nails are dirtier, but eating freshly picked veggies not only increases my lip-smacking frequency, but also translates into my choosing higher quality food when I shop. Don’t have room for a garden? Our community hosts an abundance of CSA farms and health food stores just waiting to vegetize you.

Yes, there’s still one more thing. I’m always beyond proud to live in the community that hosts this amazing weekend. The number and quality of films shown, the food served, the organization: this is one high class film festival. And, what other community could drum up the more than 600 volunteers it takes to make the weekend feel relaxed and effortless?

Maybe you too, will feel inspired to make changes after this year’s festival. Everything we do counts, every action has a consequence. I hope this year’s films help point you in an even better direction.

— Ronnie Paul



The Commercial Street Boardwalk: Building a Space for Community

November 22, 2011

Nevada City Council member Reinette Senum writes this week’s blog, describing Nevada City’s efforts to become environmentally responsible. The Nevada City Sustainability Team is working to regain the commons within downtown. One such project is the boardwalk on Commercial Street.

One of the biggest advocates of some of the most recent sustainable projects in Nevada City comes from the city sanctioned Nevada City Sustainability Team (NCST). In existence for less than a year, the Team’s mission is to create a city-wide sustainability vision, and develop strategies for its implementation, long term management and economic viability.

It was in March of 2010 when I was able to get my council members to sanction the development of the Sustainability ‘Vision’ Team to create a holistic plan to develop and implement priority projects addressing three objectives: economic vitality and resiliency; healthy ecosystems; and community well being.

Upon city council approval, I organized an ad hoc committee of local experts and residents to establish the framework for planning and to identify and prioritize projects. Utilizing public workshops and weekly ‘sustainability team’ meetings, a matrix of projects was developed and prioritized based upon local benefits, partnerships and need. One of the identified priority revitalization projects was the Commercial Street Beautification initiative.

Like many communities throughout the country, it was in the late 1960’s that Nevada City lost its vital downtown plaza to the Highway 20/49 expansion that cut through the heart of Nevada City. If you talk to any of the ‘oldies’ about this community dissection, it is not uncommon to see them shed a tear. Nevada City has never been quite the same.

In recent years, Nevada City has been working to reclaim the commons through the Union Street development project, which included the rehabilitation of Robinson Plaza (in front of the Chambers of Commerce), the establishment of the Nevada City Farmers Market, and the planning and redesign effort for Calanan Park, and the redevelopment of the adjacent 28,000 square foot Alpha Building at the base of Broad Street.

Following a community survey and store owner input, volunteers from the Sustainability Team developed the “Commercial Street Beautification Plan,” which they then presented to City Planning and the City Council for review. After addressing a number of concerns, the City Council approved the implementation of the pilot project.

The Commercial Street Boardwalk would be the starting-gate for a larger revitalization effort to make Nevada City a more sustainable community.

The installation of the Commercial Street Boardwalk would encourage more economic activity, create a space for all members of community to enjoy and demonstrate the applicability of this sustainable development technique. It would also increase pedestrian access to more public right-of-way, thereby alleviating congestion on the sidewalk. To reduce vehicular traffic impact, the Boardwalk would only take up only three parallel parking spaces.

By utilizing volunteer labor and reclaimed materials, the entire project would cost only 53 cents per Nevada City resident.

To raise the total $1,600 needed for the new material for the decking, the NCST team members began selling raffle tickets for items donated by surrounding merchants. The benches, railings and planter boxes would come from a reclaimed redwood deck belonging to a NCST member, Al Bulf. Once volunteers removed the screws and nails from the reclaimed lumber, NCST member and construction lead, Gary Tintle planed the redwood planks at his workshop and transformed the wood into benches and planter boxes.

Commercial Street prior to the Boardwalk

Work parties were organized to engage the public. Volunteers, young and old, completed the assembly and sealed the benches and planter boxes. The Boardwalk blueprint, designed by landscape architect and NCST member, Karin Kaufman, were coming to life. After several work parties the sections of the boardwalk were complete and ready for installation.

It was on an early Sunday morning that volunteers with some solid carpentry skills arrived and began assembling the Boardwalk. They had given themselves two whole days to do so, but in the end they would surprise even themselves. They would have the decking, planter boxes, benches, soil and plants installed in 5.5 hours. By 12:30pm, the volunteers’ work was completed and they began to savor the surprised expressions of passer-byers coming upon the boardwalk for the first time.

Today, the seating areas have enhanced the services of the surrounding businesses while drawing a larger variety of foot traffic in downtown, ultimately increasing the economic viability of the commercial district.

Within the first 4 days of the Boardwalk installation, three merchants painted their storefronts. A month later, two Boardwalk ‘regulars’ took it upon themselves to repair a decaying storefront across from the boardwalk by purchasing the needed materials and doing the carpentry repair themselves.

Commercial Street Boardwalk

And now, along the edges of the Boardwalk, there are three parking meters that have been transformed into Give-O-Meters. Coins dropped into these meters are dedicated to the upkeep of the Boardwalk as well as other beautification projects around Nevada City.

It is in this 60×8 ft dimension that our community and its complexities play out.  The Boardwalk has created a setting that represents a micro of the macro: buskers learning to work along side the opened doors of storefronts, non-smokers learning

to deal with smokers, and merchants and locals navigating how to establish ownership of the Boardwalk.

Though the Boardwalk is a two-year pilot program that is meant to assess the impacts to local businesses and the general community, it has been built to last a dozen years. We believe that by simply providing a place for community to gather, we will begin to build the most crucial element of a sustainable movement: a strong sense of community and a true sense of our place in the world.

Before the Boardwalk was built and installed, citizens kept asking, ‘what do you mean by a Boardwalk?’ or ‘What, exactly, will this look like and what will it do?’ Today, nobody asks these questions. Instead, they approach me with suggestions for where the next Boardwalk installation should take place. Such as in front of the Nevada Theater so as to provide space for intermission during performances or in front of the Alpha Building and across the street at the National Hotel so as to provide an gateway onto Broad Street.

Through a physical example, the public now understands the benefits of a walkable and pedestrian friendly town, and a majority of our community members now tangibly understand and support the idea of providing more space for community to gather.

Simply by providing a space for community to work itself out, our world is already changing for the better. The rest will follow.  The Boardwalk is a testament to this.