Green film festival returns to Ventura

Event spreads ecological message through film

By David Percival 03/22/2012

The bald eagle evokes a feeling of patriotism in some people. For filmmaker Kevin White, this feeling is coupled with a tremendous sense of respect.

“Here comes a bird with a six-foot wingspan and talons out,” said White- bombing you.”

In his documentary Return Flight: Restoring the Bald Eagle to the Channel Islands, White explores the successful reintroduction of our national bird to the Channel Islands following decades of absence due to widespread use of pesticides, including DDT.

Return Flight is one of more than a dozen films to be shown when the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy hosts the Wild and Scenic Film Festival this weekend at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura.

The festival will feature independent films focusing on outdoor adventure and ecological awareness.

Ranging from one to 30 minutes in length, the films were shot everywhere from the nearby Channel Islands to the Philippines, a fact not lost on Stephen Svete, the festival chair and adviser for the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy.

“What’s nice about the festival is having both international and local stories,” said Svete. “The local stories make it more direct and clear that the ecology and global environment are all linked together and, in fact, these environmental issues are all over the globe, including right here.”

White hopes his film stirs up a sense of optimism in audiences. “We know how much doom and gloom there is,” he said. “The bald eagle shows a positive story. It’s important for the public to have positive stories that generate hope and possibility.”

In addition to the screenings, attendees can enjoy beer, courtesy of the Ojai Beverage Company, as well as wine, snacks and raffles.

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, an organization committed to saving natural open space around Ventura, is hosting the event for the third year.

Svete believes the efforts of the organization run parallel to many of the efforts of the filmmakers.

“The filmmakers are delighted that we’re showing their work, and they’re as passionate as we are,” said Svete. “There will be speakers from some of the films present at our event; they want to celebrate with us.”

If engaging environmental films and cold beverages are not enough, the festival also doubles as the Ventura Hillside Conservancy’s annual membership drive.

The purchase of a $35 Conservancy membership automatically rewards with two free festival tickets, while a $50 membership yields four free tickets. And students can take advantage of a sweet deal when they join the Conservancy for $20 and receive a free ticket.

But perhaps more than anything else, the festival is an opportunity to rediscover an appreciation for the natural world all around us.

“We just hope that people can take away a renewed energy to enjoy our natural heritage in our region and assist us in conserving and restoring it,” said Svete.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival is Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, 7 p.m., at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura. Tickets and additional information can be found at


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