Prairie Water Film Festival

March 25, 2013

In advance of the article in this Sunday's Amarillo Globe-News reporting on the forecast of a continued drought, the Prairie Water Film Festival was held this weekend at the Don Harrington Discovery Center, sponsored by the Amarillo League of Women Voters. And to further punctuate the ravages of climate, the festival ended as the wind speed outside gusted to 50 miles an hour or more.

It is not through mystic powers of foretelling events, but by simple awareness of the global and local conditions involving water supplies and needs that compelled this group of concerned citizens to bring a thought-provoking film festival focusing on water and climate changes to Amarillo.

The Prairie Water Film Festival opened Friday night with a short, warm-up documentary, One Plastic Beach, a beautifully upbeat story of artists Richard and Judith Shelby Land, who comb a kilometer section of the beach in Northern California for plastic debris that washes up onto the shore, creating colorful and fascinating works of art with their finds. The Land's are not aiming to clean up the beach, but look at it as “curating the beach”. The material washed ashore and used in their art is part of the North Pacific Gyre, sometimes called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the Pacific Trash Vortex, one of five gyres in the world's oceans. Some estimates, in every square mile in every ocean, roughly 46,000 pieces of visible trash or plastic is suspended in the waters. This reminds me of a quote I heard a few years ago, “the ultimate destination of the objects of our desires is the trash dump.”

Last Call at the Oasis, a longer documentary, focused on the water crisis itself, that is, a shortage of water for all the needs of people worldwide, and our reluctance to accept this fact. Numerous sides of the water crisis are presented that illustrate tough decisions to be made in the future as well as some ideas to begin solving them.

During Session Two on Saturday morning, two documentaries were shown, Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West and Carbon Nation. Watershed continued the festival's theme of water use and scarcity, while Carbon Nation dealt with the issue of global warming and climate change brought on by the increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air. Numerous solutions were presented as to how we could limit carbon dioxide output into the atmosphere without endangering our use of energy.

Saturday afternoon's session began with a film highlighting the plight of water much closer to home, Playas: Reflections of Life on the Plains, a highly informative piece about the importance of playas to the Plains ecology and recharging of the aquifer. Examples were given of modern agriculture's impact on playas and how some of the damage can be reversed once we realize what the real bottom line is, continued availability of water resources.

Another short film followed, Blue Obsession, spotlighting the Alaskan Mendenhall Glacier, served as a warm-up to the afternoon's premier documentary, Chasing Ice, the much acclaimed film documenting with time lapse photography, the melting of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana. Spectacular scenery, epic events and personal struggles held my interest to a captivating degree. Because of James Blalog's vision and desire to make a difference with his life, this once in an epoch event has been preserved for all to see and study. Having heard of Chasing Ice this past October, I hoped it was not long before I'd have the opportunity to see it, my only question was where I'd have to travel for a showing. According to the Chasing Ice website, the screening at the Don Harrington Discovery Center is the only Texas screening currently available.

The Prairie Water Film Festival was tied together and capped off by discussions at the end of each session. One might expect the discussions to center around finger pointing  at one political party or the other in a blame game, but this was not the case. Comments centered around the knowledge deficit experienced by all of us, the users of Planet Earth, and queries of what we as individuals can do. As so aptly illustrated by Mr. Blalog, one person can accomplish quite a lot.

This was my first ever attendance at any sort of film festival, the first of many, I predict. I was not disappointed in Amarillo's attempt, and my expectations were, in fact, greatly exceeded. The films, music, message, organization and refreshments of the Prairie Water Film Festival were exceptional. One participant, who had attended other film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival held in Park City, Utah, gave it two thumbs up.

Although I only attended the final session on Saturday afternoon, I was able to return to my computer to see if any films I missed were available to view. A number of them are available free for the small computer screen, individual setting experience, on YouTube. Here is a list of links to films or trailers selected by the Prairie Water Film Festival:

One Plastic Beach, full length

Last Call at the Oasis, link to the first of six parts available on YouTube

Watershed:Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West, trailer only

Carbon Nation, full length documentary

Playas: Reflections of Life on the Plains, trailer

Blue Obsession, trailer

Chasing Ice, trailer


Angie Hanna