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More than just a film festival: takeaways from the Wild & Scenic Film Fest

Story by Hayley Paronish, Engagement Manager

It’s already felt like a whirlwind of a year with a rebrand in the works, new partnerships, and exciting sponsorship opportunities. As a new staff member, It’s been great to see how things are panning out for us – including expanding our reach by sponsoring and attending events like the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

I’ve always been a fan of documentaries, but being a part of something more considerable like this event is something I’ve never experienced. From the beginning of the day, it was clear that this wouldn’t be solely about watching great films or meeting new people. It was all of that, plus being surrounded by people passionate about the same things you are: protecting our wild places, preserving our wildlife, and ensuring that future generations have access to the beauty of our landscapes.

The Politics of Beauty

I started the day by attending the Legacy We Leave film session. The session included two wonderful films, but the one that spoke to me most was, Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty. It was interesting to me that I’d never heard of Stewart before, given his revered title in the conservation space. Stewart Udall, for those of you who aren’t aware, added more units to the National Park system than any other Interior Secretary in history, while pushing through Congress much of the significant environmental legislation we now take for granted. Stewart was a true uniting force for pushing the environmentalist movement and promotion of desegregation and tribal sovereignty. While it was informative and inspirational, my favorite part of the film was the story of Stewart’s trip to the Grand Tetons with Lyndon Johnson’s wife, and first lady, Lady Bird. When Lady Bird fell in love with the magnificence of the Grand Tetons, Stewart knew he had played his cards right. Everyone knew Johnson loved his wife and respected her opinion, so when he got her invested in protecting our wild places, he knew Johnson would, too.

A focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in natural spaces and environmental activism

This year, the Wild & Scenic Festival has taken note of the greater awareness of the social and economic barriers that are prevalent in the worlds of environmentalism and outdoor recreation. With this in mind, many of the films featured in this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival focused on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in natural spaces and environmental activism. One of my personal favorites was Wading for Change which followed conservationist and angler Jr. Rodriguez and his journey to becoming “like the pictures he saw in magazines.”  It was so inspiring to follow along his journey of learning to love the outdoors and what it can be like to participate in outdoor sports in Western mountain towns as a person of color. The context of this film was especially important, as CalWild believes it is our duty to ensure everyone is encouraged and empowered to be involved in the protection, management, use, and enjoyment of public lands regardless of age, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, culture, or spiritual background.

Aside from the films, I got to meet a few conservation groups that CalWild works closely with, and a few that we’d love to connect with in the future. With our very own documentary film in the works, 6,000 Miles, we knew making the trip to this film festival would be worthwhile. We can’t wait to share with you all the hard work we’ve been putting into our own film very soon!

You can learn more about our 6,000 Miles documentary here.