A taste of three Lookout Wild screenings
Film festival season officially begins on March 20 with the Lookout Wild Film Festival. The long wait is finally over. After months of announcements and press releases, the LWFF launches into an entire weekend of films that celebrate the outdoors. Being a film critic does sometimes have its perks—one of which is advance access to films being shown at the festivals.
The organizers of LWFF have seen fit to give me a taste of what is in store for festival attendees. The three films below are just a fraction of the full festival experience; however, they do give a strong indication of what the festival hopes to accomplish and what viewers can expect to see.
“Karsts of China”: A short, eight-minute film about climbing the unique and powerful limestone formations in China’s southern region, “Karsts of China” is notable more for its spectacular visuals than a compelling story. This isn’t to say that the film dull or slow, just that the personalities in the film seem fairly typical for extreme sports enthusiasts. In fact, “Karsts of China” is likely to leave the audience wanting more.
There are further stories to tell with this type of expedition, and while the climbs and the karsts themselves should be the focus, the tales of South China, interactions with the local culture, and the overall “otherness” of traveling and climbing through a foreign country might have been highlighted more.
Still, the beauty of the karsts and the strangeness of the landscape make up for any narrative shortcomings the film might have. “Karsts of China” is an example of what lies beyond our borders for the more adventurous among us.
“Delta Dawn”: Despite a title that leads to memories of Tanya Tucker, “Delta Dawn” tells the story of one of the United States’ most famous rivers, and the understated power of water on an ecosystem. Man has long dominated the landscape, more often than not bending nature to his will rather than living in balance with it. We have created farmlands and golf courses in the middle of deserts, and siphoned off untold gallons of water to supply cities that continue to drain resources from finite sources.
Years ago, when Aldo Leopold was writing about conservation and visiting America’s beautiful green spaces, the Colorado River ran from source to sea, creating a lush ecosystem that supported a vast variety of life in the Mexican Delta, from insects to birds to jaguars. But now, with the dams and farms and cities taking the water away, the Colorado delta is nothing but sand and desert.
The US gives Mexico an allotment of water and the cottonwoods and creatures suffer. The film follows a group of paddleboarders and “river rats” that follow an experimental pulse of water released by the US government and note the instantaneous changes along the delta, as the Colorado once again meets the sea and life rebounds for a moment, however brief.
The film makes a strong case for natural conservation, albeit without offering alternatives to the current rationing of water in the area. It gives voice to an issue many Americans know nothing about.
“And Then We Swam”: Of the films provided, “And Then We Swam” is the most entertaining and engaging of the three, largely due to the personalities of the filmmakers themselves.
It tells the tale of two Englishmen, who after reading about a rowing race across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Mauritius, decide to throw caution to the wind and enter, despite having no rowing or seafaring experience whatsoever. Listening to their interviews, it would be easy to imagine them in a sitcom. They seem to have no use for foresight or rational decision-making; instead, James Adair and Ben Stenning are full of good-natured hubris and a thirst to push themselves beyond their limits.
The film follows their four-month quest across 3,500 miles of open ocean to the final three miles, where a rogue wave causes them to capsize and the pair has no choice to but swim the final three miles to a gap in the reef off Mauritius. The descriptions of their challenges accompanied by the shots of the open ocean as they document their journey make the film a unique experience not to be missed.
The Lookout Wild Film Festival has been successful for a reason. These films have been carefully selected for the audience, and anyone with an interest will find something worth the ticket price. Support local film.
Tickets for the Lookout Wild Film Festival can be purchased online at chattanoogaonstage.com or at the box office of the Memorial Auditorium.