The numbers are staggering. More than 1,200 films were submitted for consideration. Just over 160 films were selected. And now, it’s official. The 23rd Sedona International Film Festival, set among the magnificence of the Sedona red rock mountains in Arizona, begins today, and will continue until Sunday, February 26.
Last evening saw an event at Sedona Performing Arts Center that served as a special introduction to the film festival. Actors Ed Asner and Valerie Harper joined colleague and friend, Academy Award winner Cloris Leachman for ‘Cloris on Comedy: An Evening with Cloris Leachman,’ where the duo proudly presented Leachman with the Sedona International Film Festival Achievement Award.
As a special salute to the actress/comedian of stage, film and television, two films with appearances from Cloris Leachman will be shown at the festival during the week. The newly released comedy/drama, The Comedian with Robert DeNiro is tomorrow, Sunday February 19, 6pm at Sedona Performing Arts Center, while the Mel Brooks 1974 classic comedy, Young Frankenstein will be shown later in the week on Tuesday, February 21, 3:10pm at Sedona Harkins 2.
As for today, films will be running from 9am this morning, beginning with the documentary The Million Dollar Duck and the engrossing French drama based on a true story, Fanny’s Journey, and concluding this evening with the Canadian production of the Hindi spoken drama, Under The Same Sun.
In addition to the Saturday films, officially heralding the opening of the 2017 Sedona International Film Festival will be a live performance from three-time Grammy Award-winner, Bruce Hornsby in concert with his band The Noisemakers. The performance starts tonight, 7pm at Sedona Performing Arts Center.
Each day throughout the festival, in addition to highlighting daily events, this column will also take a closer, more analytical look at certain films of particular interest that should not be overlooked. Today’s film of interest comes from local Sedona filmmaker Bryan Reinhart, Born to Rewild.
Born to Rewild is a fifty-five minute documentary that invites audiences to accompany TrekWest adventurer John Davis on a five thousand mile journey from Mexico, across the United States, and up as far as the Canadian border.
“The idea,” John explains during the opening moments, “is we need a continental wildlife corridor, a continental habitat connection, spanning islands, rocky mountains and adjacent deserts and grasslands.” As the film successfully points out, roads and development are closing in on America’s wildland, trapping wild animals in areas and habitats far too restrictive.
“In North America,” John continues, “we’ve done a good job of protecting islands of habitat. We’ve protected national parks, national wildlife refugees, wilderness areas. These are all good things. it’s great that we’ve protected these places, but they’re too small. They’re too isolated. And unless habitats are connected, over the long term, they will loose species.”
John’s starting point is Sonora, Mexico. With Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run and Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild alternating in his head – hence the film’s hybrid title – John sets out on his mission to trek one long wildlife corridor, heading north, part of which will be through Arizona’s national treasure, the Grand Canyon, which John describes as a crown jewel of our national parks, though he’s quick to point out that it is far from fully protected. “As I would come to find out,” John explains, “The Colorado Plateau, even in its grandest parks, faces many threats, from busy roads to dams, to uranium mining.”
His days are spent hiking through deserts, climbing mountainous craggy peaks, running wild rapids, sometimes getting lost, pulling thorns out of his flat, fat bicycle tires, and thinking of solid food. His nights are spent studying maps and either sleeping in his small, gray tent, or simply resting under the stars. Much of this journey is spent alone, but John acknowledges that his trek was dependent on a community of conservation friends whom he continually meets along the way.
One of those conservationists, biologist Louisa Wilcox, pays compliment to John’s attempt to build bridges between Eco-systems for species like grizzly bears and other carnivorous creatures by observing that John is also making other kinds of bridges. “You’re making bridges between animals and people,” Louisa explains. “You’re making bridges between people’s understanding of what those animals can mean and do mean; that they mean more than pictures on a screen.”
After spending eight months on the trail either hiking, riding horseback, biking or paddling rafts, it’s Day 238 when John finally reaches Canada. Unlike the ugly wall along the southern border that John had to face before leaving Mexico (and one he describes as simply ‘ungodly’) there is no wall he has to encounter at the Canadian border. “Thank goodness,” John declares.
With some magnificent cinematography shot by the late Ed George, in whose memory the documentary is dedicated, Born to Rewild, directed by local Sedona filmmaker Bryan Reinhart along with Ed George, is a remarkable achievement. It’s a film of hope and of a big screen, visual splendor that serves as a reminder of just how stunningly beautiful the natural landscape of America truly is and should always remain. “If you ever need to find hope,” John explains during an early portion of the documentary, “look straight in the eyes of children who are still close to nature.”
Born To Rewild can be seen this afternoon, Saturday, February 18, 3pm at Sedona Performing Arts Center, with a second performance on Monday, February 20, 9:20am at Harkins Sedona 6
For the official 2017 Sedona International Film Festival website CLICK HERE