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Photograph by Lois Robin
Sticky subject: Dr. Robert Curry, fluvial geomorphologist and subject of the documentary 'Stuck in the Mud,' mired in the Pajaro River

Screen Savers

Santa Cruz's own EarthVision Film Fest presents real solutions to environmental problems.

By Garrett Wheeler

Happy sitting in gridlock on Mission Street? Enjoy waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 1? Like many Santa Cruz residents, Mathilde Rand is weary of increased traffic congestion in the city, but unlike most, she has chosen to find a solution. In her new documentary film, What's Moving Santa Cruz?, Rand explores the viability of Personal Rapid Transit, a safe alternative to cars that involves a network of small trams suspended from overhead cables. Her film, along with 10 other locally produced films showcased in this year's EarthVision Film Festival, offers direct resolutions to real-life problems, many of which are virtually unknown to the greater public.

The 10th Annual Environmental Film Festival kicks off on March 1, with screenings held through March 8. Out of the 120 films submitted from 13 countries, around 60 will be presented throughout the week. Though the films vary in length from seven minutes to well over an hour, the festival's theme of "The Year of Ordinary Heroes" persists throughout. Festival director Angela Flynn says the theme sends an important message to community members about striving for change through active involvement.

"We're all ordinary heroes," Flynn says, "and just sitting around and relying on someone else isn't going to work. These films are about how we all have the ability to make a difference."

As a first-time director in charge of organizing the largest EarthVision festival held to date, there's no doubt Flynn will have her hands full. "Things have been running smoothly," Flynn says. "It's pretty exciting."

Among her duties is the responsibility of finding accommodations for more than 20 visiting filmmakers, which she says has been helped largely by a sponsorship from the UCSC Inn and Conference Center. Despite the crazy-making difficulty of putting together such a big event, the reward for Flynn is irrefutable.

"People see these films and say, 'Wow, that really changed my life.' It's really inspiring," she says.

One of Flynn's favorite films ("I love all of them," she laughs) focuses on gravel mining in the Pajaro River, and the subsequent damage the practice has caused the watershed. The film's title, Stuck in the Mud: The Pajaro River in Peril, is a literal reference to the sediment build-up that threatens the river's multitude of indigenous plants and animals. "This is a great film because it educates people and gives a sense of history about a local issue they probably didn't know much about," Flynn says. "I can't believe the way we treat our rivers." The film's producer, Lois Robin, uses historic photographs, interviews and scenic footage to capture the importance of managing the watershed.

Another film focusing on Santa Cruz County is True Accounts of the Light Brown Apple Moth Aerial Spraying, which details community members' reactions to last fall's spraying. The film conveys a clear disapproval of the spray and addresses the lack of mainstream media attention that followed. The film may be simple, but its direct approach to a controversial issue is well suited to its purpose.

"Many of these films don't focus necessarily on artistic quality, but it's the overall meaning that make them so powerful and transformative," Flynn says. "They inspire us to make a difference in protecting the environment--that's why they're important."

Movie Times 10TH ANNUAL EARTHVISION ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL opens Saturday, March 1, and runs through March 8. Screenings are at various times and locations in Santa Cruz. Please check for more information. Tickets are $5, donations accepted; kids under 12 free.

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