What an awesome festival!

Salmon Film Festival Goes Swimmingly (See photos here – thanks, Scott!)

Thousands of Chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon swam, surged, and wriggled through twenty hours of film at the 3rd annual Salmon Film Festival, held at Portuguese Hall over Veteran’s Day weekend. Sponsored by the Salmon Restoration Association (SRA), and financed by their wildly successful World’s Largest Salmon Barbeque, the onsite festival featured independent filmmakers from Canada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California, while the online festival drew thousands of viewers from over 120 countries.

The themes of the Festival: salmon restoration, ecology, and culture, were interwoven through animations, vintage cartoons, music videos, documentaries, and science talks on monitoring salmon populations and improving salmon habitat by invited speakers Pat Higgens (Eel River monitoring), Dave Wright (biologist with Campbell Timber), students and instructor Robert Jamgochian of the Mendocino High School SONAR program, Alex Letvin (California Fish & Wildlife), and the short film “Saving Salmon One Log At A Time” about restoring coho salmon habitat in the Garcia River Forest. Local and regional salmon restoration efforts were highlighted by SRA President Joe Janisch and Board Member Jim Martin, and special guest Scott Strain, online podcaster with RobMob.

After viewing short films on salmon-related topics such as ocean acidification and aquaculture, attendees learned about the negative impacts of farmed salmon through the films “Alexandra’s Echo” and “Salmon Confidential,” which detail how fish farms spread sea lice and foreign diseases to wild salmon runs. Films including “Salmon Running the Gauntlet” and “The Greatest Migration” showed the effects of hydroelectric dams and water exports from Northern California rivers; the films were accompanied by advocacy talks by Adam Scow (Food & Water Watch), Rogene Reynolds (Restore the Delta), and Keith Wyner (on genetically engineered salmon).

Filmmakers Joshua Tucker (“We Can’t Eat Gold”), Monique Sonoquie (“On the River with Glen Glen Moore, Sr.”), and Will Doolittle (“Dancing Salmon Home”), illustrated the stories of Alaskan Native, Yurok, and Winnemem Wintu trying to save endangered salmon runs and salmon-based cultures. Tribal testimony from speakers Chief Caleen Sisk (Winnemem Wintu) and Dania Rose Colegrove (Hoopa) emphasized the long-term struggle to retain traditional fishing and ritual rights and adequate water flows in the McCloud, Klamath, and Trinity Rivers, and the cultural and environmental threats posed by the Shasta Dam.

Tribal perspectives were complemented by the film “Over Troubled Water,” and informative talks on the proposed Delta tunnel, a massive – and unsustainable – water diversion that would support corporate agriculture at the expense of family famers, riparian and estuarine ecologies, and native fish runs throughout Northern California.

The Water Underground, a combination citizen-science-advocacy-theater-troupe from the Bay Area, brought an exciting addition to the festival in Sunday afternoon with their poetry, song, dance, and costumed depiction of a fictionalized salmon trying to overcome obstacles in reaching her spawning grounds. The story, “Gold Fish Casino,” is in the process of becoming a film; and festival attendees were treated to a sneak preview of the proposed film.

Completing the salmon immersion experience for Festival attendees was a buffet of salmon-themed books from Gallery Bookshop and informational tables by Jughandle Nature and Education Center and Klamath Riverkeepers, and a smorgasbord of locally harvested and prepared foods: salmon chowder from Harvest Market, smoked salmon from Roundman’s Smokehouse, “Save the Tuna” seaweed salad from Ocean Harvest Vegetables, seaweed chewnami snacks from Rising Tide, and hand-painted organic salmon cookies, a Festival tradition. Mendocino Eco-Artists, a number of whom are Salmon Restoration Association members, held a concurrent artistic show with the festival, “Saving the Salmon” at the Artist’s Co-op In Mendocino.  A raffle drawing for a painting donated by local artist Bob Rhoades was won by Sacramento resident Mia Mull.

The Festival shows 30-40 short, medium, and feature-length films each year, many of which are freely available on the internet on YouTube and Vimeo, allowing the Festival to run 365 days a year at http://www.salmonfilmfestival.org. Interviews with the Festival Director and keynote speakers can be viewed on the newly established Mendocino TV website http://www.mendocinotv.com.

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  1. Great work… great Salmon voice. Really nice to be able to view films for those unable to attend.

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