Staff Report

Dozens of documentaries and short films from 21 countries, in both live and animated form, will be screened virtually at the third annual NatureTrack Film Festival (NTFF), Oct. 9-18.

From adrenaline-inducing to spectacular, heart-breaking to hope-filled, the festival features inspiring stories from passionate filmmakers about the world we live in and share with the other animals on earth.

The film festival will be delivered straight to patrons’ homes, offering the safest viewing environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. All tickets previously purchased for the festival in March will be honored.

“In 2021, look for NatureTrack Film Festival on Tour, and in 2022 we will be back in person,” said NTFF founder Sue Eisaguirre. “We look forward to making our beloved town of Los Olivos pop in a most festive way and to celebrating the filmmakers whose passion leads the way.”

Highlighted films include:

‘Birth of a Pride’

Goleta-based FLIR, a returning NTFF sponsor, has provided a two-minute short as a companion piece to the feature film “Birth of a Pride.” FLIR has been working with the World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project to put an end to illegal poaching in Africa.

FLIR’s infrared camera technology, paired with cutting-edge software, has become the newest tool to tamp down this rampant problem for the majestic wildlife found on the African continent. NTFF’s producers wanted to give patrons a look at how thermal imaging is used in the wild.

Making the presentation even timelier, these thermal imaging solutions from FLIR are in use now at businesses, airports, and other places that can help screen for elevated body/skin temperature, a possible sign of COVID-19 infection.

From public spaces such as airports and train terminals to federal buildings, private offices, and factories, deploying thermal imaging cameras for screening provides more safe and secure environments.

‘By Hand’

In the extreme adventure film “By Hand,” two Pismo Beach brothers paddle by hand from Alaska to Baja, unaided by anyone else, just the Higginbotham twins in a coming-of-age story with nature as their mentor.

No motors to propel them, no support boats, their custom-made boards carried everything, and they paddled more than 2,000 miles with only director Kellen Keene’s camera keeping them company. “By Hand” has been scooping up awards at film festivals this year.

‘The Lost Kings of Bioko’

Oliver Goetzel, whose films have taken awards at the first two NTFF events, returns in “The Lost Kings of Bioko,” with another endangered species in his lens: one of the world’s least-known primate species, the drill monkey.

Off the coast of central Africa lies Bioko, an isolated island covered by ancient rainforests and surrounded by dark ocean waters. Island folklore tells of a drill king who ruled the island’s forests, a place where drills still play a critical role in the health of an ecosystem known to scientists as a biodiversity hotspot.

The film takes on subjects most of the world is unaware of in Goetzel’s quest to create a brighter future for the drills through science and, most importantly, species protection. Goetzel also created “Making of Lost Kings of Bioko,” a behind-the-scenes bonus short just for the NatureTrack Film Festival.

‘83° Ski the North’

Another past NTFF award-winner, Matthias Mayr, goes to the Arctic’s northernmost mountain range in the world for his “83° Ski the North.”

Joined by adventurer Hauni Haunholder, the two set off to ski the Arctic Cordillera and as the saying goes, “it’s the journey not the destination,” as the men encounter major athletic and filmmaking challenges.

The Ellesmere Island location is home to arctic wolves, polar bears and native Inuit people who actively support the intrepid mountaineers.


Bringing the personal story of Madame Kokoly to the NTFF, UK filmmakers Garth Cripps and Paul Antion capture a wide-angle look at the world’s marine environment in “Kokoly,” the close-up story of a traditional Vezo fisherwoman in Madagascar.

Living in extreme poverty, Madame Kokoly reflects on her personal losses and life experiences, and the ocean she fishes which is changing beyond her control. Female-only voices are represented in this heartbreaking film.

“Kokoly” is a short documentary film, produced by Blue Ventures, and supported by Stories of Change, a project of the Sundance Institute, with support from the Skoll Foundation.

‘Threats in the Northern Seas’

Getting down and dirty, “Threats in the Northern Seas” director Jacques Loeuille from France brings light to silent and deadly underwater witnesses from World Wars I and II — 3 billion tons of chemical and conventional bombs that lie at the bottom of the North and Baltic seas.

Loeuille’s film examines the underwater stockpile of lethal munitions and takes on the cause of defending the survival of our vital oceans and seas. Why were these weapons dumped and are these massive watery caches of highly toxic ordnance an avoidable disaster?

Eisaguirre said she has found that NTFF patrons are “proactive people for our natural world, and this film will educate you about the dangers and natural disasters caused by climate change.”

NTFF film categories are: Adventure, Animation, Biography, Conservation, Kids Connecting with Nature, Scenic, Student, and a special category, Outdoors & Out of Bounds.

The full list of participating films is posted on the festival website

All-Access Passes, and single tickets are now available and may be purchased on the NTFF website, All proceeds from the festival go to support the NatureTrack Foundation. All tickets from the March 2020 dates will be honored.

Cost for an All-Access Virtual Pass is $100. For those who earlier bought an in-person All-Access Pass, the festival suggests either sharing the pass with someone or donating the difference in cost to the NatureTrack Foundation as a much-needed gift.

Find more information about NatureTrack Foundation at