At a time when it seems like the entire world is flooding, on fire or on the verge of another environmental catastrophe, a little inspiration goes a long way.
Just in time to save us all from our downward spiral of despair and cynicism, the 2017 Portland EcoFilm Festival comes to the big screen at the Hollywood Theatre, for four days from Thursday, Sept. 28 to Monday, Oct. 1.
Nineteen of the latest and best environmental films from around the world will be screened at the fifth-annual event, several of them making their Pacific Northwest premieres. Many showings will feature the filmmaker in attendance, to lead a chat with the audience afterward.
It won't be all doom-and-gloom, festival director Dawn Smallman promises.
She says to prepare to be uplifted, with inspiring stories about passionate change-makers doing "strong, important work" and having fun in the natural world.
"It was a weird time (in the environmental community) before the (Eagle Creek) fire," Smallman says. "I think a lot of people in the conservation world felt like 2017 was a make-or-break year."
Whether people see one film at the festival or all of them, the hope, Smallman says, is "to give people a way to reconnect, remember why they love what they love about getting out in nature and doing what they can to protect it."
With a festival that's getting bigger each year, this will be the first time they're bringing a high-profile guest. It will be environmental activist Winona LaDuke, who ran for vice president on Ralph Nader's Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000.
LaDuke and filmmaker Keri Pickett will present their new film, "First Daughter and the Black Snake," with a discussion to follow at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28.
In the film, LaDuke's character believes Big Oil is the black snake predicted in indigenous prophecy to bring about the Earth's destruction.
When proposed new oil pipelines threaten sacred wild rice lakes, LaDuke's character dreams of organizing a spiritual ride, riding her horse against the current of oil — "because a horse can kill a snake," she says.
"First Daughter" is one of roughly half this year 's film showings that were produced by women filmmakers. There's also plenty of local storytelling, with eight of the 19 films made by Pacific Northwest filmmakers.
Several Portland environmental nonprofits will have a presence at the festival, helping people connect to their organizations if the films spark an interest.
"Jeff's World" provides a humorous, behind-the-scenes look at a group of friends who rock-climb in a secret spot in the wilderness. Oregon Wild and the Portland Mazamas climbing group will be in the lobby to be a resource and expand their reach.
Other groups involved include 350PDX and Columbia Riverkeeper, which will be on hand to discuss river health and climate change after showings of "SILA and the Gatekeepers of the Arctic," which examines the effects of climate change at Greenland's Swiss Camp research station, among others.
"Called to Rescue: Redefining our Barnyard Story" profiles 15 people who've run farm animal sanctuaries.
"Island Earth" looks at the challenges of GMOs, modern agriculture and population growth by viewing Hawaii as a microcosm for the world's food problems.
And there's an intriguing piece on the competition between wild salmon and an underground cannabis economy, called "A River's Last Chance — A Story of Salmon, Timber, Weed and Wine Along California's Mighty Eel River."
Are you hooked? For the full schedule, passes and details, visit: portlandecofilmfest.org/venue-ticket-info