Wild & Scenic Film Festival
What: Wild & Scenic Film Festival
WHEN: Join a live event at 7pm Thurs., April 22; stream the films on demand through Fri., April 23
Cost: $20 general admission; additional donations are encouraged
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Ruby J wears a slouchy beanie atop her head. Her oversized goggles are reflective, meaning people may not be able to catch her eye, but she can see them just fine. Above her full lips, a small hoop pierces her septum. She appears to be a self-assured woman who’s ready to take on the world—or at least the nearest mountain.
That’s not a mistake. Ruby J is the alter ego of Brooklyn Bell, a Bellingham-based artist and graphic designer who brought the hand-drawn hero to life more than five years ago, soon after she became interested in mountain biking and skiing and realized she was pretty much the only Black woman to be found on nearby trails and slopes. She may have felt like an oddball in the outdoors, but Ruby J didn’t.
“I created her to be somebody who I thought was cooler than me, and more powerful than me, and was just so badass,” Bell (pictured) says in the short film Becoming Ruby, which is showing as part of an Earth Day broadcast of the annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival. The virtual event, “Diversity Matters,” will benefit the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association’s salmon recovery programs and projects.
Along with the eight other films on the roster—more on those shortly—Becoming Ruby was chosen to reflect under-represented communities as they relate to the natural world, and help promote representation for adaptive sports, transgender, indigenous and Black athletes. As a whole, the Wild & Scenic Film festival is meant not only to illustrate the Earth’s beauty and natural wonder, but also endeavors to inspire people to take real action to protect the environment.
In the film produced by Patagonia and filmed in Bellingham and British Columbia, Bell talks about what it was like to grow up in a city with few people of color, and how Ruby J has helped her become a vocal advocate for diversity in outdoor spaces. As the camera follows Bell winding expertly on her two-wheeled conveyance through twisty bike trails surrounded by giant fir trees and lush greenery, it’s clear she’s plugged into her self-created role model’s reservoirs of power.
“When I ride my bike, I get to show the real me,” Bell says. “It doesn’t matter what I look like or who I am. What matters is getting connected to the dirt.”
Strong women are a recurring sight in the remaining films on the roster. Dani Burt follows the titular athlete’s path to becoming the first-ever women’s World Adaptive Surfing champion after a motorcycle accident resulted in the amputation of her right leg from the knee down. In Myrtle Simpson: A Life on Ice, the focus is on the trailblazing author, adventurer and polar explorer who, at 90 years old, is still undertaking journeys most people only dream about.
In Magali, viewers will also be introduced to Magali Salinas, who has dedicated the last 15 years to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wild animals in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Similarly, Still River, Silent Jungle focuses on indigenous activist Ruth Alipaz Cuqui, who struggles to embrace the limelight in order to protect her river and her people in the jungles of Bolivia. Navajo river guide Colleen Cooley gets the spotlight in Water Flows Together, which elevates the importance of acknowledging indigenous land in outdoor recreation.
Stories from the Blue: Discovering Inner Earth follows Jill Heinerth and fellow cave divers who are looking into the darkness to further their understanding of our planet. In A Mother’s Love, actor and activist Lena Georgas’ spoken word piece gives voice to the hope that the silence resulting from the pandemic has allowed people to acknowledge that “our planet’s whispers have become screams.”
Finally, TranSending tells the story of Erin Parisi, a transgender woman who trains for the Seven Summits in order to create awareness and visibility for the trans community. As Parisi comes into her own identity, she allows herself to be both vulnerable and courageous. It’s a theme you’ll find throughout the nine films, and one that will also endeavor to provide hope for the people and places found on our resilient-yet-fragile planet.