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2018 Taos Environmental Film Festival offers food for thought

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“We have a world heritage here, innovative sustainable living architecture, KTAOS and the Pueblo, if we all pull together, we can effect change.”

That’s Jean Stevens speaking. She is director of the Taos Environmental Film Festival, which opens its 2018 edition today (April 19), at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

Stevens was born in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Growing up in the epicenter of the entertainment business fueled her passion for the power of film.

She has called Taos home for 27 years, and for the last four of them, has headed the film festival.This year, the festival coincides with Earth Day and honors the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act created by Congress in 1968 to preserve and protect certain rivers, including the Rio Grande.

Award-winning feature films will be shown as well as six short films made in and around Taos. Part of the proceeds from the festival will go to Renewable Taos, Amigos Bravos, Rivers and Birds, Taos Center for the Arts and the Society of the Muse of the Southwest (SOMOS).

The theme of the 2018 festival is “Finding True Happiness in an Unsettled World.” The festival continues through Sunday (April 22), with film screenings at the Taos Community Auditorium and poetry readings at SOMOS.

Plus, on Earth Day, Sunday (April 22), activist Robby Romero will conduct “Live from the Ride,” followed by screening of his short films about Native American empowerment at Bataan Hall at the University of New Mexico-Taos, 121 Civic Plaza Drive. All events are free, donations greatly appreciated.

Here's a rundown of festival events. Unless specified, these will all take place at the Taos Community Auditorium:

Today (April 19), 10 a.m.

This is a special screening of three films by Oscar-nominated film director and cinematographer Greg MacGillivray. A short film titled "America's Musical Journey" is first in the line-up. It is followed by the epic "Grand Canyon Adventures: A River at Risk" with music by The Dave Matthews Band and "National Parks Adventure" narrated by Robert Redford and featuring stunning aerial and ground footage of our national parks.

Today (April 19), 6 p.m.

Film festival awards presentation called "Hawaiian Blessing: Keola and Moana Beamer for Environmental Activism." The filmmakers receiving the award this year are Tom Vendetti, Robert Stone, Greg MacGillivray and Keola and Moana Beamer. Following the presentation, "Tibetan Illusion Destroyer" will be screened and the short film "Dalai Lama & Happiness," followed by a question and answer session.

Vendetti is a longtime Maui resident who works in the mental health field. His first visit to the Himalayas sparked his other career as an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Later in the evening at 8 p.m., Taos filmmaker Chris Dahl-Bredine's short film, "Shots From Above," and the Vendetti and Greenberg short film, "Florotica," will be screened. Dahl-Bredine's film is inspired by a near-death experience in 1999.

"I had a brush with death while skiing at Taos Ski Valley...," he said. "I was pushed off of a cliff by a small avalanche and I thought my life was over ... I now see that our time here is so brief and precious."

Following Dhal-Bredine's film, Hawaiian activist Keola Beamer will introduce his film, "Malama Ko Aloha," which means "Keep Your Love." Keola Beamer, Carlos Nakai, and Geoffrey Keezer play the music for this film. Beamer is considered a Hawaiian legend as a singer-songwriter, composer and guitar master.

Friday (April 20), 10 a.m.

The short six-minute film "Rooted in Love" by local filmmaker Jody McNicholas will be screened. The story follows a day in the life of longtime Taos farmer, restaurant owner and educator, Micah Roseberry. Following is the dramatically filmed "Sea of Life" by director Julia Barnes. The film investigates environmental threats facing the oceans' fish populations and the chemical imbalances in ocean water.

At noon, a short film, "Population Speak Out," and the documentary "Beyond Crisis" by Kai Reimer-Watts will be screened. According to the filmmakers, "Beyond Crisis" is a story of hope for a rapidly changing world: a meditative call to action that explores what it means to be living in this new era of climate change, as told by more than 50 diverse voices from across Canada, the U.S. and beyond.

Friday (April 20), 6 p.m.

A movement and multimedia performance is planned with musician, Gary Yamane, who will play cuts from his album, "Voices in the Wind," with dancers Rima Ralff, Dana Klepper-Smith and festival director Jean Stevens.

The short film "Avanyu" by Dana Romanoff will follow. Then, the Emmy award-winning feature documentary film by Tom Vendetti, "Bhutan Taking The Middle Path to Happiness," and "The Dalai Lama and China" will be screened. A question and answer session with the director follows the film.

At 8 p.m., "Seed Sovereignty" by local filmmaker Miguel Santistevan and "Last Animals" by Kate Brooks will be screened. Conflict photographer Brooks turns her lens from the war zones to a new kind of genocide, the killing of African elephants and rhinos. The recent death of the last Northern White Rhinoceros makes this film all the more urgent.

Saturday (April 21), noon

"The Last Rush of the Wild West" by Jennifer Ekstrom will be screened. It is a look at tar sands, oil shale and the American frontier. It is followed by "Redefining Prosperity" also by Ekstrom and John de Graaf. A question and answer session follows with Ekstrom.

Saturday (April 21), 6 p.m.

"Agua es Vida" by Taos filmmaker Pablo Irlando-Wildman will be shown. The film based in Taos focuses on the Rio Fernando in the Taos watershed. This is followed by a second screening of "Sea of Life" by Julia Barnes. At 8 p.m. viewers have another opportunity to see the "National Parks Adventure" by MacGillivray, followed by a screening of "Poisoning Paradise" by Keely Shaye Brosnan and Teresa Tico. Described as a "journey to the seemingly idyllic world of Native Hawaiians, where communities are surrounded by experimental test sites and pesticides sprayed upwind of their neighborhoods."

Sunday (April 22), 11 a.m.

The final day of the festival will celebrate Earth Day from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Bataan Hall. Films, speakers and rock musician Robby Romero will entertain. Romero will present "Live from the Ride," along with other short films that address Native American empowerment. An interactive Canon film workshop with the latest filmmaking equipment will be included. Donations will go to the Native Children's Survival Indigenous Student Endowment Fund.

Sunday (April 22), 6 p.m.

As its finale, "Gray Area: Wolves of the Southwest" by Alan Lacy will be screened. This will be followed by the short film, "Nuestra Acequias." The producer of the film, Roberta Salazar of Rivers and Birds, will hold a question and answer session. Next up is a screening of "Poisoning Paradise" by Keely Shaye Brosnan and Teresa Tico. At 8 p.m. viewers have another opportunity to see "America's Musical Journey," "National Parks Adventure" and "Grand Canyon Adventures: A River at Risk" by MacGillivray, followed by the documentary "Beyond Crisis" by Kai Reimer-Watts.

For more information visit the festival website at taosenvironmenalfilmfestival.com.

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