Local environmental film festival celebrates its ninth birthday at UW

This is not your average lecture series. Later this month, Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival will make its way westward to the University of Washington campus for its ninth-annual event.

"Scientists are normally pretty boring," said Stephanie Harrington, executive director of UW's Earth Initiative, laughing. "Their language can be pretty boring usually, so we're very excited to have the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival on our campus."

After eight years in Leavenworth, the festival - a tribute to longtime Seattle environmental enthusiast Hazel Wolf - launches on March 29 with a special screening at the Woodland Park Zoo.

On March 30, the festival will move to the UW's Kane Hall, where it will show 50 films and shorts on a variety of environmental topics in three screening rooms. The festival runs at the UW through April 1.

"Film is a great way of getting across a lot of information in a very compact way," said David Atcheson, executive director of the Hazel Wolf festival. "With this year's theme being global climate change, we've put together such a wonderful program."


During the four-day festival, Hazel Wolf will hold 14 screening sessions with panel discussions led by environmental experts and professors following immediately afterward.

Outside of the festival's central theme of climate change, films and documentaries will address other issues of environmental justice, including peak oil, rivers, mining, wildlife and climate solutions, as well as a post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana.

"With global warming such a pressing issue, the public is hungrier for climate research. The world around us has caught up to our extensive climate research," Harrington said.

In fact, it was the University of Washington that first led the charge on El NiƱo research. By teaming up with one of the largest environmental-research departments in the country, this year's festival promises to be informative, entertaining and international.

"There's definitely an international flavor this year," Atcheson said. "We've got films from or about Italy, Cuba, Africa, India, Ukraine, Canada and even the tiny island nation of Tuvalu in the southwest Pacific."

This year, films include "The Edge of Eden: Living with Grizzlies," an 89-minute documentary about Canadian Charlie Russell, who served as a "surrogate mother" for grizzly bears in Russia; "The Great Warming," a dramatic film about climate change narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette; and "Hurricane on the Bayou," a breathtaking tour through New Orleans.

"Bringing science into a storytell-ing medium is much more effective than lecturing," Harrington said. "It makes the ideas so much more reachable."


On March 31, festival co-founder and award-winning filmmaker John de Graaf, a 24-year veteran of KCTS-TV, will host an hour-long workshop on filmmaking. Along with Harriet Bullitt, the two founded the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Network in 1999 and established it as an official nonprofit organization in 2000.

In addition to their yearly environmental film festival, they also sponsor a monthly series of Green Films on the first Friday of each month at the 911 Media Arts Center in Queen Anne.

"People in this area truly appreciate the environment and have a real connection with it," Atcheson said. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to have our event at the UW and share it with those west of the Cascades."

Tickets are available for advance purchase at www.brownpapertickets. com. Seats are limited, so organizers advise purchasing tickets early.

For more information, visit www.hazelwolf.org.

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