Taos Environmental Film Festival looks at our fragile earth

By Kathleen Steward
Posted 4/18/19

Entering its fifth year, the Taos Environmental Film Festival, taking place Thursday through Monday (April 18-22), will showcase 22 award-winning films running the Earth’s gamut from ...

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Taos Environmental Film Festival looks at our fragile earth


Entering its fifth year, the Taos Environmental Film Festival, taking place Thursday through Monday (April 18-22), will showcase 22 award-winning films running the Earth’s gamut from the Río Grande and the Grand Canyon to the far-flung Pacific Midway Atoll and onward to the Amazon rainforest.

Screenings will take place at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is free, but donations will be greatly appreciated.

“I’m trying to touch on all parts of the world,” said festival founder Jean Stevens. “Film is a pathway for change.” Stevens, a Taos resident for 28 years, is the force behind the festival.

One of the films opening today (April 18) is a school-friendly screening of “Humpback Whales,” along with four shorts. Filmmaker Greg MacGillivray records the whales during their annual 10,000 mile migration to Alaska, Hawaii and the remote island of Tonga, where the once dwindling population of the humpbacks sing, feed and play. Actor Ewan McGregor narrates the journey.

Children and the general public alike will be treated to the musical “Anthem for the Amazon.” Under the direction of Emir Cerman, with conductor Simone Scazzocchio, 500 children from 50 different countries sing a global anthem to the beautiful and fraught Amazon rainforest.

“Through performance and poetry readings, I want to expand our knowledge and engagement with environmental and activism topics,” Stevens said.

Taos filmmaker Lynn Hamrick’s “Hiro’s Table” will screen Friday evening (April 19). Shot over a 16-year span, “Hiro’s Table" tells the story of master chef Hiroli Obayashi and his wife Yasyo as they managed Hirozen Gourmet, their restaurant in West Hollywood.

“I was living in West Hollywood at the time; I was a regular at the restaurant. Back in 1989, they were novel, a restaurant in a strip mall using farm to table food, plating everything beautifully. He really nourished all the people in the community,” Hamrick said.

Hamrick, holding a master’s degree in film from UCLA, gives due credit to Academy Award-nominated editor Gail Yasunaga for contributing to the film’s success by sticking with it over the lengthy 16-year shoot. “It was a very intimate film for the two of us,” Hamrick said.

“Hiro’s Table" recently won the 2019 Audience Award of the Golden State Film Festival in Los Angeles. The film has also been an official selection of the Tenerife International Film Festival, and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. It was also given a local premiere Feb. 7 at the Taos Community Auditorium.

“The humanity she brought to this film makes me want to cry,” Stevens said.

From Southern California to the African continent, “Walking Thunder” will screen on Sunday (April 21). Filmed over the course of 10 years, Santa Fe residents Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson along with son Lysander bring to audiences the intimate world of elephants living in multiple African habitats. The movie has garnered praise from acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

“This is a wonderful, almost mesmerizing film. I don’t think I’d ever 'seen' elephants so quietly and elegantly as this film allows us to see them. They feel familiar and utterly fantastic at the same time. Friends. Wonderful,” Burns is quoted in press materials from the film’s website (

Photographs taken by “Walking Thunder’s” Academy Award-nominees Christo and Wilkinson are on view in an exhibition concurrent with the film festival at the Bariess Gallery, 15 State Road 150, north of El Prado.

Sponsors for the festival include the Taos Ski Valley Foundation, New Mexico Film Foundation, Trieschmann Family Foundation, Chevron Community Fund and the Peters Family Art Foundation.

“This wouldn’t have happened without the Taos Ski Valley Foundation by far,” Stevens said.

Stevens has also drawn to the festival’s lineup “The River and the Wall” along with “Nasario Remembers the Río Puerco” for Saturday (April 20) screenings. Both films use New Mexico’s indelible landscape as a backdrop for adventure, inquiry and memory.

In “The River and the Wall,” conservation director Ben Masters and five multitalented and adventurous friends travel 1,200 miles in two and a half months from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico using bikes, horses and canoes. Masters, also a National Geographic photographer, delves into President Trump’s desire for a border wall and its negative effects on what remains of the wild lands.

“It’s a fantastic film and I hope the audience fills up,” Stevens said. “And it is timely.”

Directed by Santa Fe resident Shebana Coelho, “Nasario Remembers the Río Puerco” is narrated by acclaimed oral historian and folklorist Dr. Nasario Garcia. Having grown up alongside the river, Garcia reminisces about the once flourishing Hispanic villages through lyric storytelling.

This year's Environmental Activism in Film Award honors both Dr. Tara Waters Lumpkin and the certified B Corporation Patagonia. Taos resident Waters Lumpkin, an environmental and medical anthropologist, founded Perceptions International to show, through storytelling, collaboration, community and advocacy, that we can learn to coexist with other species and nature.

Since its inception in 1973, Patagonia is committed to and recognized for its international environmental activism, contributing over $100 million in grants and in-kind donations to date.

The festival concludes Monday (April 22), which also happens to be Earth Day. Its final act will be a SOMOS benefit poetry reading with Earth Day themes featuring Olivia Romo, Will Barnes, Anne MacNaughton and Alexandra Grajeda. The event will take place 7-9 p.m. that day at the SOMOS salon, 108 Civic Plaza Drive. Admission is free. For more, see story on Page 24.

For the complete schedule and additional information, visit


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