The term “wilderness” has a different connotation for each Earthly observer: for some, nothing is as wild as lions ripping meat off their kill, while for others it doesn’t get wilder than a trek through formidable ice-capped mountains. And what about the rapid pace at which lands are eroding, species are vanishing, and oceans are filling up with jellyfish? That’s wild, but not in the wooly, happy way. To explore a suite of unique visual interpretations of the concept “wilderness,” Jenny Nichols and the rest of the WILDshorts crew have invited 18 filmmakers to share their work at a one-night film festival in western Spain. To be held tonight from 8pm at the Plaza de Bandos in Salamanca, the outdoor event will showcase an impressive variety of short but powerful films that challenge and expand our notion of what is wild. Conceived to encourage greater protection for everything from coral reefs and rivers to America’s wonderful national park system, WILDshorts comprises just one arm of the annual World Wilderness Congress now in its 10th year.
“WILDshorts is about taking conservation to a visceral, deeply human level. This is where a film festival can really take the Congress beyond the walls of academia and policy by connecting with the masses,” says organizer Nichols from Pongo Media Productions. “We want to jog the mind, encourage people to think outside the box, experience new ways to share important stories about the wild.”
Indeed, each of the 18 films brings to life a unique wilderness component. Some focus literally on wild animals and places, like Snakes in a Cave, which explores a Puerto Rican cave that is home to 300,000 bats and a boa constrictor that eats them, and A World Made of Coral by the Living Oceans Foundation.
But wilderness is also a feeling, an intangible thing best expressed through experience. Few understand this better than extreme sports enthusiasts and conservationists who dare to explore the furthest, most uninhabitable, and often most breathtaking reaches of the planet. Walk on Water explores Greg Mallory’s switch to kayaking after a skiing accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and Monique Poole’s Sloth Sanctuary tells the story of a woman who brought more than 200 sloths into her home after their forest dwelling in Suriname was cut down. The rest of the program is available here.
Albeit exciting, the film festival is not the only event taking place during the World Wilderness Congress. From 4-10 October, 2013, roughly 1500 people from dozens of countries have gathered in Salamanca for seven days of other conservation-centric activities, announcements, cultural events, trainings, meetings, and so on. The event initially spearheaded by Ian Player and his Zulu mentor Magqubu Ntombela draws together a community of like-minded nature enthusiasts who aim to make a better world through creativity and collaboration. Be there if you can; otherwise, participants can join from afar through WILD10 Live|En Vivo.