By Raiza Giorgi
Dozens of nature-themed films, including an Oscar-winner, will fill the weekend of March 22-24 during the second NatureTrack Film Festival in Los Olivos.
“We are really excited to bring some blockbuster films this year that people will enjoy. We are showing some entertaining films … ‘Free Solo,’ which just won an Academy Award, as well as ‘Human Element,’ a film about how people are the fifth element in nature,” said KC Thompson, an organizer of the second annual event.
“This festival is about combining the cultural experiences we love in the valley … great food and wine, being outside — and film,” Thompson added.
The festival’s films share common themes, such as world exploration and humans’ responsibilities as stewards of the natural world.
The weekend also includes speaker panels, technology demonstrations, and chances to meet the filmmakers.
Films will screened from Friday through Sunday at three venues: the Los Olivos Community Center (formerly the Grange Hall), the Gates Foss Community Center at Los Olivos School, and Stacy Hall at St. Mark’s In-The-Valley Episcopal Church.
The festival begins at 4 p.m. Friday with an opening reception at St. Mark’s.
“Free Solo,” the Oscar winner for best documentary, will be shown the same night at 6:15 p.m. at the Gates Foss Center. It profiles rock climber Alex Honnold on his quest to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan in June 2017.
A full schedule of films will be shown from 9 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Saturday and from 9:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Sunday. The festival will conclude at 4 p.m. Sunday with a closing reception at Sides, A Brothers Restaurant.
“We have a wide variety of films being shown, and there really is something for every age level,” Thompson said.
One of the films is “Boy Nomad,” which follows a year in the life of 9-year old Janibek, who lives with his family in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains. His first love is racing horses, but this winter, his father will bring him on the toughest journey in a nomad’s life: the winter migration.
“The Amazing Coral Lifecycle – From Dusk till Spawn” looks at the way corals spawn and develop into new colonies.
“We have so many great volunteers coming back and helping out. We are thrilled to also bring in more speaking panels and opportunities to check out new technology in the film industry,” Thompson said.
Filmmaker “meet and greets” are planned for local food and wine establishments, including the spotlight dinner at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at The Gathering Table at The Ballard Inn, with famed Canadian painter Cory Trépanier, who directed another film in the festival, “Into the Arctic: Awakening.”
Trépanier will host a multimedia presentation about his numerous plein-air painting trips to capture the icy grandeur of some of the most wild and remote regions on the face of the planet.
The festival also includes a demonstration of infrared camera technology by representatives of FLIR, a company based in Santa Barbara, and a demonstration of falconry.
“The infrared camera allows more ‘night vision’ capabilities, which enhance the filmmakers in films on catching poachers or capturing footage of rarely seen species,” Thompson said.
In addition, NatureTrack will also offer docent-led hikes for those who want to take advantage of the valley’s abundant natural beauty.
Juried awards will be given for audience favorite, best student film, best in category (feature or short), best depiction of children connecting with nature, and overall best in festival.
NatureTrack is a nonprofit organization that provides free, curriculum-coordinated field trips for Santa Barbara County school-age children, using trails and beaches throughout the county.
NatureTrack aspires to instill students with leadership skills, attitudes and habits for lifelong learning, inspiring them to be respectful stewards of the natural world.
Since its founding in 2011, more than 14,000 students have experienced a NatureTrack field trip.
The NatureTrack Film Festival was honored with the “Best in Fest” award for Best Charitable Film Festival at the FestForums conference at the Hilton Santa Barbara Resort last fall.
Ticket options range from single events to whole-festival passes. To buy tickets or get more information on the festival, visit www.NatureTrackFilmFestival.org.