SYRCL Wild & Scenic Film Festival to take center stage beginning Friday
In 2003, the inaugural film festival featured 22 films and attracted a handful of filmmakers to Nevada City. This year’s lineup features 75 premieres, 60 films that have already been shown and approximately 100 filmmakers who will make this area home for a few days
Editor's note: An exclusive interview with Film Festival Director Kathy Dotson as well as more than 20 reviews of films at this year's festival are included in the January edition of the Nevada City Advocate, which can be found in locations in Nevada City, Grass Valley and the San Juan Ridge.
By Pat Butler
Just days after getting knighted by England’s Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Patrick Stewart will be among the thousands attending the 8th Annual SYRCL Film Festival this month in Nevada City.
“It’s not a goal, but when they do come it’s a big deal. He’ll attract visitors on his own,” Film Festival Director Kathy Dotson said of celebrities like Stewart, who will be here for the awards ceremony that begins at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Miners Foundry.
Stewart, an accomplished stage actor whose long list of film credits includes the X-men and Star Trek, is the narrator for Nature Propelled that will premiere at the Film Festival. He is also this year’s featured guest at the festival, which goes from Jan. 15 to Jan. 17 at seven venues in Nevada City.
For Dotson and others on the SYRCL Film Festival staff, the festival is the culmination of months of work. She has personally watched around 350 films this year before deciding on the 135 movies that made the final cut.
Dotson admits, however, that she has learned how to make quicker decisions than when she started reviewing films in 2003.
“I’m ruthless these days,” she said. “If it doesn’t capture me in the first 10 or 15 minutes, it’s over.”
Nonetheless, Dotson still spends hundreds of hours reviewing and searching for environmental films while nurturing an event that she says is now known as the “Sundance of environmental film festivals.”
In 2003, the inaugural film festival featured 22 films and attracted a handful of filmmakers to Nevada City. This year’s lineup features 75 premieres, 60 films that have already been shown and approximately 100 filmmakers who will make this area home for a few days.
“We didn’t invite filmmakers to the initial film festival but a number of them showed up and they made a difference,” Dotson said. “Now they want to come and the community loves it. A number of them stay at homes of local people. They legitimize the film festival.”
In addition to the filmmakers, Stewart and few other celebrities who could show up, Dotson estimates that nearly half of the estimated 4,000 tickets sold are purchased by out-of-towners.
“It takes over downtown Nevada City,” she said. “With more then 45 percent coming from out of the area, it really introduces Nevada City to the people and they come back.”
Food and Water is the theme of this year’s film festival. Dotson said that watching the films had a sobering affect on her and the selection committee, which consists of 10 volunteers.
“I’m watching all of the films, and it’s obvious that the filmmakers want to talk about that (food and water),” said Dotson, adding that environmental films are more popular if not always profitable since Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” was distributed nationwide in 2006.
“The filmmakers are passionate and invest themselves in the film,” she said.
“They have to be devoted to their causes. They don’t make money on the films.”
This year’s film festival starts at around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, with movies, live music and receptions at the seven venues, which includes the historic Nevada Theatre, Oddfellows Lodge, Masons Hall, Veterans Hall, Nevada City Elementary School and at the Great Hall and Stone Hall in Miners Foundry. It continues on Saturday and Sunday (a complete schedule can be found at www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org).
In addition to the many workshops and other special events at this year’s Film Festival, it will for the first time present a Native American Introspective. It will be run by the local Maidu tribe and show films about Native American issues on Friday night and Saturday at 106 Union Street.
Dotson said the Film Festival is able to add this event thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“They do the Oscars,” Dotson said of the organization that doles out of thousands of dollars in grants to film festivals.
As the festival nears, Dotson is looking forward to stepping back and letting the audiences see what the filmmakers have to say, which oftentimes reflects a grim reality as a way to inspire substantial change.
“For the most part these are stories they wouldn’t have the opportunity to see. It’s an important event because of that. We’re sharing these stories,” she said. “People need to make drastic changes in the world and they have to understand this.”