THE INAUGURAL WILD & SCENIC Film Festival was an informal gathering at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City. Rivers and Tides, a 2001 documentary, was shown. Actor Peter Coyote and poet Gary Snyder spoke. Though little known, the event organized by the South Yuba River Citizens League (or SYRCL) was a sell out.
In January SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary. It has grown into the largest film festival of its kind, drawing 4,000 people to historic Nevada City. The festival features 100 films, from all over the world, at seven venues in town, including the historic Nevada Theatre.
“The Wild & Scenic Film Festival has a remarkable impact on our community and beyond,” says longtime supporter and organic food entrepreneur Michael Funk. “Film has proven to be an effective medium for inspiring activism.”
The festival is named after SYRCL’s landmark victory to receive “wild & scenic” status for 39 miles of the South Yuba River in 1999.
“The festival has attracted new people who weren’t familiar with the organization—not just from Nevada County but from outside the area,” says Roger Hicks, a SYRCL founder. “This includes filmmakers, activists and celebrities.”
Over the years attendees have included actress Daryl Hannah, actor Sir Patrick Stewart, environmental activist Winona LaDuke and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, among others. “Wild & Scenic is the next Sundance,” says filmmaker Christopher Beaver.
This year’s festival will be Jan. 13-15. Films will include Green Fire, We Still Live Here, Foodstamped and Chimaera, among others.
The festival will spill into Grass Valley for the first time, with a school program led by aquatic ecologist/photographer Zeb Hogan at the landmark Del Oro Theatre.
Along with the films, a festival highlight is free workshops and question-and-answer sessions with the filmmakers and actors. There also are late-night events, live music, book signings, art shows and a wine stroll.
The film festival also kicks off a national tour. The tour started in 2007 and reached more than 100 venues in 2011. It has been to Australia as well.
“The reach of this small, grassroots watershed organization is remark- able,” sums up Funk. For more information, go to WildandScenicFilmFestival.org
New SYRCL Leader
Dardick grew up on the San Juan Ridge in the late ‘70s. He has fond memories of the Yuba River: “A neighbor used to come by in his pickup truck, honking the horn. All the kids came running, and he’d take us down to the middle fork. It was a special time.”
Neighbors volunteered in the schools. Dardick’s teachers included poet Gary Snyder and writer Steve Sanfield. “We just knew Gary as ‘Kai’s dad,’” not a famous poet, he says. Dardick graduated from UC Santa Cruz and helped his father, Sam, a disability rights activist, get elected to Nevada County supervisor. He returned to “coastal” California and worked in Berkeley, for the Mayor and later at the UC campus.
This summer Dardick was selected as SYRCL’s new executive director. His goals include creating jobs related to river restoration projects, as well as keeping the South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins State Park from closing.
“It’s exciting to be part of a membership base that draws thousands of people from throughout the watershed to preserve and care for the river,” he says.
(Caleb Dardick photo: Georgette Aronow)