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American Conservation Film Festival

Abigail Benjamin

The tagline to the American Conservation Film Festival is Engage, Inform, Inspire. This Festival event lives up to its billing! It's impossible to over-sell how gorgeous historic Shepherdstown, WV is in the Fall. Seeing innovative films about our environment inside a gorgeous mountain setting among intensely passionate people became one of the highlights of my move back home.

The American Conservation Film Festival will continue from 4:30 to 9:00 PM on Sunday, November 1, 2015. This is the coolest event to attend if you live in my area. Tickets are $12 for a 3 to 4 film session. There are also "pay what you can" and "free ticket" option. Children age 12 and under are free. Catholics will love to see Pope Francis' concern about the environment expressed in film. Conservationist and Environmentalist will be inspired. Anyone who loves photography will find rare and exciting movie shots. 

If you can't get to the Film Festival, check out the extensive website and watch many of the films online. My list of favorites include, "The Little Things," a film about sustainability made by professional snowboarders, "The Bat Man of Mexico" by the BBC (note: I'm not a fan of bats, but this film was an incredible story of hope for endangered animal populations), and North of the Sun, which I want to beg everyone I love to download for $4.99 and watch. North of the Sun is basically about two Norwegian guys who spend a winter, as as sort of "gap" year living in isolation on a beach above the Artic Circle. They surf. They pick up 3 tons of plastic trash from the beach. The eat expired food that's free from a supermarket miles to the south. They make their own shelter. One of them has to hike up a mountain to get enough  cellphone bars to call his girlfriend in New Zealand. Its this unbelievable gift that the digital camera has given us that we get participate in the authentic lives of people distant from our own in geography and culture.

Local Filmmakers inside of West Virginia also had an opportunity to shine in this festival. Take two minutes and learn first hand about the chemical spill that poisoned the water for 300,000 West Virginians in 9 counties in January 2014. Filmmaker Keely Kernan makes this Mom's first hand account powerful and real.

For a more in depth coverage of the chemical spill, including the equivalant of a 911 emergency call for a chemical spill, watch Elk River Blues.  Elk River Blues is the single hand creation of West Virginia Public Television Film Creator, Mike Youngren on behalf of the environmental advocacy group, the WV Rivers Coalition.  Mr. Youngren even flew the drones that took the beautiful photography shots of the headwater region of the Elk River.

Another local environmental film is Blood on the Mountain, which talks about the horrors of mountain top removal by coal mining companies. I missed watching this film myself because of my volunteer commitments at the festival. The post-film discussion with the film makers and over 100 moviegoers was deep and passionate.