Q&A: Sustainable Film Series founder Melissa Kirr shares why she picked this year's films | VailDaily.com

Q&A: Sustainable Film Series founder Melissa Kirr shares why she picked this year’s films

The Sustainable Film Series, hosted on the second Wednesday of each month November through April, is returning for its ninth year of sharing poignant documentaries about all things green at the Riverwalk Theater. The series kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 11, with “Youth Unstoppable” at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Advance registration is required for social distancing: there will be 50 seats available at each showing. Organizers are currently hosting the series in person, and will adjust programming as needed to accommodate changing public health guidelines through the winter.

“I’ve always chosen films that are specific to things that are happening around the world, as well as the local year within our country,” said Walking Mountains’ Senior Programs Director of Sustainability Melissa Kirr, who started the film series back in 2011 and has been organizing it since.

Over the years, the Sustainable Film Series developed a partnership with the Riverwalk Theater, which is “stoked” to be partnering with Walking Mountains once again.

“Being involved in the series is really a win for us, as the goal of the series is to provoke thought within our community, and this helps us to achieve our goal of bringing value to our community through film,” said theater owner Grant Smith.

Kirr sat down with the Vail Daily to discuss each film in the lineup: why she selected it, and how its themes tie to the Vail Valley. Below are edited excerpts from that conversation.

“Youth Unstoppable,” Nov. 11

“Youth Unstoppable”‘s director Slater Jewell-Kemker was 15 when she began documenting the untold stories of youth on the front lines of climate change.
Special to the Daily

Melissa Kirr: Kids want their voices heard and they’ve been trying to share their voices for more than a decade. With Greta Thunberg coming into light last year, it’s really pushed it even further. When you look at this film, you can learn that there’s been people that came before her. There’s other youth that have stepped up and said, “We need you to do something about this.” There were climate protests with youth in the valley within the past year. There are so many kids that are stepping up and saying they want to be part of it. We’ve seen that locally and it would be great for our community to see this film. It was created over a 12-year span by a 15-year-old girl. It would be really helpful for all ages to see this movement, and where it’s been and what’s happening right now.

“Wilder Than Wild,” Dec. 9

“Wilder Than Wild” explores how the vicious cycle of fuel buildup, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from those fires contribute to fires’ increasing intensity and spread to populated wildland-urban areas.
Special to the Daily

MK: Yes, typically we have forest fires in the summer, but we chose this before the Grizzly Creek fire. “Wilder Than Wild” is reminding people that fires are getting wilder. They’re in our backyard, they’re displacing our community members, they’re causing concern for people’s livelihoods and homes. This year especially, it’s hitting home. There are those that say, “Of course forest fires are a natural thing, but it’s not climate change, it’s because we didn’t manage the forest properly for so many years.” It’s a mixture of those two things. This is a chance to learn a little more about it and to see the connection with climate change.

“The Story of Plastic,” Jan. 13

“The Story of Plastic” takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it.
Special to the Daily

MK: “The Story of Plastic” brings to light the massive amount of plastics that we have in the world, and how they’re continuing to be made. A lot of oil companies are actually starting to go into plastic making right now because of the low cost of oil. They’re creating more plastics to use their petroleum, and they profit. Many places across the state, for quite a few years now, have put in bans on plastic bags and single use plastics. Vail and Avon have had a plastic bag ban for quite a few years now. The state has had many bills come in front of it, over the last couple years, around single use plastic and straws. These small pieces of plastic do add up. “The Story of Plastic” talks about where we are in the world with the amount of plastic we have and how it’s in, like, everything. It also talks about what kind of things could happen on a larger scale than just an individual reducing their plastic use, going towards policy. It’s been a hot topic for the last few years, and it’s of interest to many of our community members.

“The Need to GROW,” Feb. 10

“The Need to GROW” delivers alarming evidence on the importance of healthy soil — revealing not only the potential of localized food production working with nature, but our opportunity as individuals to help regenerate our planet’s dying soils and participate in the restoration of the Earth.
Special to the Daily

MK: Since COVID especially, more and more people have jumped back into wanting to grow their own food, and wanting to learn more about soil and going into compost. Local participating in the compost drop off or the compost program increased quite a bit after COVID hit and they wanted to do something about the waste they were creating, especially because it was food waste. It’s interesting to see more and more people wanting to go back to the land. The film discusses regenerative agriculture and the health of our soils, sharing how important soil is as a natural resource. There are certain things many of us don’t think about when it comes to natural resources and the importance of it, and soils are one of them. If we’re not taking care of natural resources by using them properly, they can cause a lot of damage down the line.

“The Hottest August,” March 10

“The Hottest August” offers a mirror onto a society on the verge of catastrophe, registering the anxieties, distractions, and survival strategies that preoccupy ordinary lives.
Special to the Daily

MK: When this was coming out, they were talking about August 2017. We thought we were at the hottest, but we’re actually getting hotter. Here we are in 2020, and we’re on record again. The film starts by exploring August 2017 in New York City, but thinking about that here in Colorado, where it does it continues to get hotter and hotter … we’re seeing catastrophic problems because of that. We’re seeing hotter Augusts, and then we start to see warmer winters. Our amount of snow is dwindling. That’s definitely of concern to us, right? Our climate changes our habitats and our ecosystems. That’s our livelihood.

“2040,” April 14

“2040,” from Australian director Damon Gameau, presents a positive vision of what could be, instead of the dystopian future we are so often presented.
Special to the Daily

MK: This one’s drawing it all in. It gives you a hope at the end, and the possibilities of where we could go. As we go through these different films of the months, we’ve really seen issues that are causing concern to us right here at home. Then, we get to have that thought of what it could be and how can things look different in 2040. In Eagle County, we’ve got goals and targets from the Climate Action Plan that we want to hit by 2030 and 2050. “2040” examines what it could look like if we’re able to accomplish those things. It  hits home to say, “Okay, there’s a bright side, a light at the end of the tunnel.” There’s the Gandhi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We need to stop saying, “this is impossible” and start saying, “this is possible” and have that mindset of “What can we do to make the change happen that we want to see?”

For more information about the Sustainable Film Series and to RSVP, visit walkingmountains.org.

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