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Local Life

Film gathering aims to inform, inspire in 12th year

Colorado Environmental Film Festival brings together creators from all over world


There’s no accounting for the twists and turns that bring creative people together, but the first meeting of filmmakers Haley Thompson and Tomas Zuccareno was all too fitting, in light of the work they would end up doing together — they meet at The Local Food Convergence in Aspen back in early 2016.

“We both wanted to make a movie about the next generation of farming, and sustainable and healthy food,” Zuccareno remembers. “We both recognized there was a problem in the farming communities we came from — that young people weren’t getting the support they needed to do this important work.”

Now, after two years of filming and editing, the pair are ready for the world premiere of their first film, “How We Grow,” which will take place at the 12th annual Colorado Environmental Film Festival.

The festival runs from Feb. 22 through 24 at Golden’s American Mountaineering Center, 710 10th St. About 56 films will be shown, some shorts and others closer to feature length, all of which are aimed at raising awareness of interconnected ecological, social and economic themes. International and local filmmakers will be represented.

“Colorado is such a great place to host a festival like this, not only because of how active residents are, but because so many people are invested in protecting the environment,” said Nicole Bickford, festival director. “We want to show films that bring light to environmental issues, but also offer solutions and hope for the future.”

The free opening night event, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 22, will include a reception featuring light appetizers, drinks, opportunities to interact with local businesses and a special silent auction benefiting CEFF programs. Afterward, there will be a screening of the film “Chasing Coral” and awards ceremony, hosted by local activist and filmmaker (and former mayor of Golden) Jacob Smith.

Over the following days, films on a variety of subjects — ranging from deforestation and ocean health to wolves and, in the case of Jane Zelikova’s film, “End of Snow,” the effects of climate change on snowpack in the Western United States — will be shown. It premieres during the 7 to 9 p.m. session on Feb. 24.

“The film follows me, a climate change scientist, as I go on a journey to learn how snowpack is changing in the West and what changes we can expect in the future,” Zelikova explained. “The idea came from my own research on the impacts of dust on snowpack in the Snowy Range mountains in Wyoming.”

Many filmmakers, like Thompson and Zuccareno, will be on hand for their screenings, and available for discussions and meetings afterwards.

In “How We Grow,” which premieres at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, Thompson and Zuccareno take a look at ambitious young farmers building community around locally grown food in the Roaring Fork Valley of Western Colorado. It examines the characters and systems of farming through the themes of education, legislation, community, food access and micro-finance — in order to tell the story of how these farmers are able to create resilient food systems.

“There’s a lot stacked against these farmers and their communities,” Thompson said. “We hope the response to the film is that people are inspired to get their hands in the dirt and start working.”

For Zelikova, film is a way to bring the global challenge of climate change to people in a realistic, moving way. Stories help people connect to ideas and inspire them to tackle challenges, she added.

“As much as it feels overwhelming, there are solutions we can implement today, solutions that don’t require a breakthrough invention or new technology,” she said. “These solutions come from people who want to be good stewards of their land and manage in a sustainable way, in the process helping fight climate change.”

It would be easy for the films shown in the festival to be all doom and gloom, but Bickford said that’s why CEFF focuses on films that inspire, as well as inform.

“We’ve found that a festival atmosphere like this is great, because people really love to gather and talk about solutions after they see these kinds of movies,” she said. “We want people to walk away empowered and know that they want to get involved.”


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