The Accidental Environmentalist

A still from 'The Accidental Environmentalist,' a short documentary playing at tomorrow's film festival.

This Sunday, Columbia locals will be able to turn over a new leaf at The Blue Note. The local Wild & Scenic Film Festival will bring breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon, Honduras, Ethiopia and other corners of the globe to downtown Columbia.

In 1983, the South Yuba River Citizens League of Nevada City, California organized this festival for environmental activists. Each year, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival runs in Nevada City before going on tour to screen films in over 100 locations around the world. The Columbia pop-up festival will raise money for the local Missouri River Relief.

Missouri River Relief is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to keeping the Missouri River clean. Jen Davis, the group's event coordinator, says all proceeds from the festival will go toward the organization's cleanup and education programs. 

Jen is excited about one short film in particular, 'The Accidental Environmentalist,' which will be screening on Feb. 11. It's a quirky, 12-minute documentary about a man named John Wathen who is accidentally exposed to toxic chemicals. Director Kristine Stolakis follows John's subsequent journey to becoming an environmentalist, and the film's storyline flows with his connection to the rivers in his Alabama community.

"Before the horrible industrial accident that caused him to have a medical condition because of chemical poisoning, he was never really aware of this environmental pollution," Jen says. "But when it affected him personally, he became very curious. He connected the dots and exposed industrial pollution into those waterways." 

Jen says that like John Wathen, many of the filmmakers whose work will be featured at the festival also stand up for lower-income communities, particularly communities of color that suffer from the impacts of toxins and chemical waste dumped near residential areas. When this pollution affects us personally, she says, we connect the dots, do some grassroots work in our own communities, and eventually expose injustices through film festivals like Wild & Scenic.

Tickets to the film festival can be purchased here, or at the door of The Blue Note starting at 1 p.m. on Feb. 12. Tickets are also available at the Columbia Alpine Shop Store.

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