Reef Relief’s Film Festival Reminds That We Can Make a Difference
By Shirrel Rhoades
Michael Shields and I are sitting in front of our microphones in the closet-sized recording booth at KONK Broadcasting, having just completed the weekly Film on Friday segment of his Art Waves radio show. The window looks onto Applerouth Lane and the nearby courthouse buildings. Sunlight glistens on Michael’s smooth cranium, highlights his graying goatee. Having spent nearly an hour on-air talking about upcoming movies, we haven’t exhausted the subject. Turns out, Key West’s Reef Relief is hosting a mini film festival and Michael Shields will be the MC who introduces these films to the eco-minded audience.
Reef Relief is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and protecting our coral reef ecosystem. After all, North America’s only barrier reef lies approximately six miles off the Florida Keys, a tract that starts near Miami and extends southwest to the Dry Tortugas.
To promote environmental responsibility, Reef Relief is bringing SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival to the Tropic Cinema on October 13. “Film has the power to transform and provide inspiration,” Michael explains. “This collection of films serves as a call to action that the world we live in must be protected.”
Later on, Michael Shields screens the Wild & Scenic selections for me, ten or so short films that comprise the two-hour program. An impressive group of films that’s guaranteed to hold your attention.
Here’s what you’ll see:
After a brief Introduction, “Change for the Oceans” leads off the festival, an animated cartoon about animals’ adaptation to a changing environment, the message being that we don’t have enough time to adapt.
Next up, “Darkened Horizons” offers a kids’ viewpoint on oil spills and other environmental problems, wistfully asking if maybe extraterrestrial friends or robots could intervene.
Then a whimsical film called “Majestic Plastic Bag” traces a little bag’s long journey to that great garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Yes, there’s a dump out there that’s twice the size of Texas. And suffering from a 1-billion-bags-a-day habit, America sends lots of petrochemical junk its way. This tongue-in-cheek life cycle of a plastic bag is narrated by Jeremy Irons.
Animals Save the Planet’s “Supermarket Bags” uses a Claymation camel, orangutan, and kangaroo to make its point.
However, the centerpiece of the festival is a documentary titled “Southern Louisiana Water Stories.” Everybody in SOLA has a water story, we’re told. The scene is set by a vignette of fiddlers, boats plowing through the bayou, and zydeco dancing. We learn that 100 million tons of silt is delivered by the Mississippi each year, a happenstance that created this diverse ecosystem over the past 7,000 years. But disruption of the ecosystem by man is destroying the wetlands. 40% of America’s wetlands are in Southern Louisiana. And we’re losing a patch the size of a football field every 30 minutes because of the levy system, oil drilling, illegal logging, and other manmade threats. Michael Shields calls the film “a good primer, a holistic look at the problem.” He likes the way the director focuses on people as he explores the issues.
“Save the Farm” looks at a 14-acre community farm in South Central LA that was sold off to a rapacious developer, despite protests by celebrities like Alicia Silverstein, Amy Smart, Willy Nelson, and Martin Sheen. Police move in to evict the farmers, arresting over 40 people, bulldozing trees and organic vegetable gardens. Daryl Hannah laments, “This is something we should be duplicating, not eradicating.”
“The Story of Electronics” uses animated line drawings to explain how the electronics industry is trashing the planet – some 25 million tons of circuit boards and chips and computer cases each year. The problem is “design for the dump,” a key strategy for assuring that stuff will be thrown away about every 18 months. The solution: Product Take Back. “The Story of Stuff Project has come up with a very good way to help us understand a complex subject,” says Shields. “One of the better films I’ve seen about eco-awareness.”
Animal Planet gives us “Energy Efficient Penguins,” a cute cartoon about a penguin who pedals to produce electricity for a light bulb, motivated by occasional helpings of fish.
In “A Simple Question,” 4th graders adopt an endangered species as a class project. Given a choice of trout, salmon, or shrimp, they go with the California Fresh Water Shrimp. “Not very cuddly,” someone observes, but important because there are only 18 streams left in California that support these tiny translucent shrimp. Peter Coyote narrates this tale about how California Shrimp Club members enter an Anheuser Busch contest, winning the Grand Prize plus $20,000 that they use to build a fence to protect one of these streams. That led to a restoration effort that is “rebuilding the world one stream at a time.”
“The idea is to turn filmgoers into activists,” says Michael Shields, settling back behind his microphone. “This film festival delivers on Reef Relief’s motto – Learn. Explore. Act Now.”
This is the second year Reef Relief has hosted the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Local sponsors include the Saltwater Angler, Clearly Unique Charter, Debora Designs, Inc. and Dancing Dolphins Spirit Charters.
As one of the films tells us, “You get a chance to choose your way and be in your community in your way” when you turn your efforts to saving the environment.