Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival puts rivers in focus

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      Intrepid Vancouver-based filmmaker Damien Gillis needs no more convincing that private run-of-river hydropower projects are a danger to B.C.’s rivers.

      The 29-year-old says he has spent countless hours over the past two years documenting the progress of these emerging electricity-generation projects on 50 of the province’s rivers. Now Gillis will get the chance to bring that message to a wider audience at the 12th annual Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival Friday to next Saturday (February 20 to 28). It’s the same message he has spread in touring the province with the Save Our Rivers Society.

      What Gillis believes his 10- to 20-minute river snapshots can offer is engagement and education.

      “I wanted to continue on using my medium—film—to raise awareness with the public about something I think is really the most important challenge facing British Columbians,” Gillis told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Relative to how important it is, they haven’t heard about it enough. They haven’t seen what they [rivers] look like. As I said to the organizers: ”˜I’ll take whatever opportunity you give me to raise awareness about the issue.’ And if I can do that at the film festival, it doesn’t matter what the medium or the event is. It’s a good opportunity to talk with people.”

      According to festival director Alan Formanek, three of Gillis’s movies will be shown, beginning with 10-minute shorty “Rivers at Risk: Koch Creek” on opening night at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre (2300 Lonsdale Avenue). Koch Creek, in the Kootenays, is a kayaker’s paradise, and the film documents the spokespeople of the Endangered Creeks Expedition making a passionate case for preserving it in its natural state. (The pair, Carl Jacks and Chris Ryman, are also the subject of another short screening at the festival, Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan’s 22-minute “The Endangered Creeks Expedition”.)

      In addition to the festival’s local and international speakers and films on outdoor activities like skiing, climbing, kayaking, and various adventure sports, other VIMFF films that address environmental issues include Red Gold, a one-hour documentary about a proposed Alaskan open-pit gold and copper mine that threatens a watershed and a highly productive sockeye spawning river. There’s also Borealis, about a challenging canoe expedition from Winnipeg to Parry Sound that reveals what impact industrial interests may have on the ancient Canadian boreal forest. (The festival’s commitment to environmental practices is symbolized by its tour vehicle, George Oilwell, a converted 1984 Mercedes fuelled by recycled vegetable oil.)

      As part of the Earth Alive night of the VIMFF on Monday (February 23) at Pacific Cinémathí¨que (1131 Howe Street), the public will also get to see “Powerplay: The Theft of BC’s Rivers”, Gillis’s more comprehensive 19-minute overview of the political impact of independent power producers. (The film will also be screened at the Social Justice Film Festival in White Rock.) This will be followed by “Powerplay: Up the Mountain”, which Gillis said includes footage of his encounters with private security guards at the Harrison Lake project.

      “This is a strong B.C. environmental theme and we got in touch with the Save Our Rivers folks in Vancouver, and they sent us those films,” Formanek told the Straight regarding the inclusion of Gillis’s movies. “They can participate in person and introduce the evening and talk about the whole issue of selling the B.C. rivers to private companies. These things surely belong in the festival, we believe.”

      Gillis is relying on the fact that, in his opinion, “people who go to film festivals tend to be socially engaged.” “Hopefully, they [viewers] will take that message out there with them and share it with their friends.”

      Gillis points out, in the movies and elsewhere, that Premier Gordon Campbell set the “blue gold rush” in motion in 2002 when he forbade publicly owned B.C. Hydro to generate any new power on its own, except for the on-again, off-again Site C dam on the Peace River.

      Gillis said he will not be satisfied until the energy-plan policy direction Campbell initiated is reversed and private producers are not given such a large role to play. Ahead of the May provincial election, there is time to pressure election candidates on their stance regarding run-of-river power, Gillis added.

      “I encourage people to call any MLA candidates in their riding and let them know they are not going to vote for them unless they hear a sincere public declaration that they are going to protect our public power system and our rivers and our environment,” Gillis said.




      Feb 20, 2009 at 4:13pm

      These kayakers want to shakedown the green energy industry and electricity consumers by claiming the stream for themselves. There are 300,000 streams and rivers in BC and they want to stop the 3 projects that are built per year in BC because they claim it interferes with their special interest!

      This is so they can get money from the energy producer. Just like the way the kayakers got $ 2,000,000 from the Rutherford Creek hydro project in Whistler to shut up and caused the electricity rates to go up in the province.

      Shakedown artists, who go and make movies for their special interest fetish so they can freeload on the ratepayers.


      Feb 23, 2009 at 6:48pm

      David Yagin (aka Tasikat), I appreciate your enthusiastic comments, opinions and expressions of seemingly authentic concern in regards to what you consider being the effortless work of a few kayakers and their narrow minded interest to save a few creeks from a small number of private power projects. However, it remains clear to me, and hopefully the rest of the spirited public of BC that your understanding of this contentious subject remains severely limited at best.

      If your motives are to simply devalue what you consider as being the selfish efforts of a few paddlers, then I alone should be allowed to ask what reason do you stand on to even care? Perhaps you are basing your opinions on what YOU stand to loose as a firm supporter of private power, or perhaps your own proposed IPP is at stake due to the legitimate work of a few selfish paddlers claiming navigability on the creeks. Well David, let me clear the air here and say that us paddlers are not as selfish as you claim. We are not in this battle to protect the interests of paddling "endangered creeks" but rather, using our paddling interests and skills to document and create awareness over what is at stake both publicly and environmentally - for countless generations to come.

      It is obvious to me that you have yet to see our films, yet your mind is already made up on who were are and what we as paddlers stand for. Yes me and my fellow ECE partners are basking in the light of having our films publicized in the media. But what makes us more proud is the reception we get from the audience who come away with a clear understanding that this issue is far greater than the interests of a few worried paddlers. Had we taken as narrow and selfish of a focus as you make it out to be, our films would not be a part of such prestigious events as the VIMFF and countless other film festivals that will be screening our all encompassing documentary films in the months to come.

      Let me restate this again in simple terms David as it appears you routinely have a hard time visualizing the message before you. We (the ECE) aim not to promote the saving of creeks for paddling interests but rather use our interest in paddling to save threatened creeks for public and environmental reasons that span far beyond a private power producer's 30-40yr purchase agreement with BC Hydro. These streams of planetary life were created long before your power bill was ever being affected... Think about it?

      Heck, while you spend some time diving back into your children's elementary school science text books, why don't I help pay off some of your high power bills with what remains from us paddler's supposed $2,000,000 in Rutherford Creek blood money produced by private power producer INNERGEX as a public relations scam to pay off a small number of BC's paddlers who openly expressed deep concern with the development of their power project. Yes David, this $2,000,000 in money you speak of was used intentionally by the project developers to corrupt a key executive player in the Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC (now defunct) into the alluring idea of working with INNERGEX to design and construct a now treacherous MAN-MADE 550m whitewater course that sees a restricted amount of annual visitors, yet continues to serve as a disgusting reminder to the rest of us paddlers to think twice about the idea of allowing anymore private developers to con us into building something as contentious as the Rutherford Facility?

      Might I say David that most newly acquainted paddlers agree to being attracted to this sport for the sheer enjoyment of being allowed to access, remote, wild and pristine places - 450,000 of them apparently! Not man-made structures that mingle with the natural elements in some sort of quasi, haphazard fashion that tends to prove useless to any novice paddler in the grand scheme of things.

      In regards to protecting creeks from many other run-of-the-river projects, our little hearts go out to the areas that we may never discover via kayak, the areas that we are now loosing to greed and man's short term thinking!

      But more importantly, I hope the best for the areas that we as humans cant access, the areas that hopefully remain protected and forever safe from public exploitation, whether it be kayaking, fishing, climbing, hiking or what have you... However, it seems event the natural defenses of these areas are disregarded in favor of generating more MONEY, CORRUPTION and a complete lack of complete thinking directed at investing in the future of our environment, not the future of our power consumption habits... We need to conserve, not produce more power! Even if it's at 3 sites a year and growing.

      But what would you care David? Just like the rest of you power hungry officials who like clockwork, make statements about us little guys with such narrow minded assumptions. However, your claims eventually weaken your efforts to disguise who you really are; that being someone who obviously holds a vested financial interest in seeing these projects through to their completion. Us readers can sense this by the anger you express in this and your many other statements posted online under the pseudonym "Tasikat." It's amazing where a Google search can take you these days... Pretty soon I will be in your home David, quietly shutting off your unused lights and turning down your dialed up thermostats you power hungry beast of a man.

      Thank you for your comments David/Tasikat.
      I now have to go and think about what sort of province I want to hand over to not just paddlers but to our future generations.
      I suggest you do the same.

      Yours in spirit,
      Carl Jacks
      Castlegar resident,
      ECE paddler, filmmaker.