This year, passionate viewers came together to share in their love for wildlife and the environment at the 3rd annual New York Wild Film Festival from January 28-31. Documentaries were the main focus at this four-day event that featured six well-rounded programs throughout the weekend, also including an animated short film titled ‘Ain’t No Fish’ (directed by Tom Gasek and Miki Cash) highlighting musical seals. The festival, founded by Nancy Rosenthal, was hosted by the Explorer’s Club in Manhattan, an organization supporting scientists and explorers in their research and travels around the world.
A fascinating collaboration of stories discussing both animals and people, the festival offers a platform to converse about our environment in all its forms and how living things inhabit it, dangers and beauties alike. The films presented at NYWFF ’16 scope important topics, from elephant treatment to extreme high altitude sports, from wild horses in the American West to man and industries’ relationship with nature.
Wildlife big and small made its way to the screen in unique ways, diving into what is causing the decline of a major oceanic food source in David Sington’s documentary ‘License to Krill’ (Best Exploration Film) and introducing us to the adorable Sirocco, a New Zealand ambassador and endangered kakapo parrot in all his glory featured in the short ‘Sirocco’ (Best Student Film) directed by Ashwika Kapur. Visually and contextually stunning, the ‘Best in Festival’ winning documentary ‘Unbranded,’ directed by Phillip Baribeau and produced of Dennis Aig, showcases the amazing journey of four men traveling from Mexico to Canada on horseback while addressing issues of wild horse and public land management in the west.
Of particular focus were elephants, programmed for one evening, with ‘Soul of the Elephant,’ directed by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, and ‘Warlords of Ivory,’ produced by Katie Carpenter, John Heminway, and JJ Kelley. These films on one end account a celebration of deceased elephants untouched and with tusks intact and on the other end seek to expose the wasteful ivory trade within Africa’s dangerous organized groups. Both films have a strong presence about these grand animals.
Climbing, the thrill of the outdoors, extreme weather; these topics ran through a number of films at NYWFF. Skiers and snowboarders might especially appreciate ‘Degrees North’ by Guido Perrini that tells the story of skilled freeriders exploring Alaska and Svalbard, Norway for a dose of what they love. A skier and photographer’s dream, ‘Eclipse’ (Best Adventure Film) by director Anthony Bonello, shows the drive of one photographer hoping to capture the ultimate shot of a group of skiers in front of this lunar event in Svalbard. ‘Meru’ (Best Feature Film) is not to be missed. Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, this film follows three talented climbers on the difficult journey up Mount Meru in the Himalayas. Also a climber’s story is Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell’s, ‘A Line Across The Ski.’
NYWFF also looked at coal industry issues in ‘Overburden’ (Best Environmental Film), a wildlife photographers’ career in ‘Joe,’ the effects of pesticides on wildlife in Jonathan Demme’s ‘What’s Motivating Hayes’ (Best Conservation Hero Film), and further explored the reliance of people, industry, and whole nations on the preservation of our natural resources. A festival that directs vital attention to what makes our planet so beautiful, New York Wild Film Festival takes us out of the concrete jungle and into the expansive natural world we hope will remain in good hands.