Earthly Delights

The Reel Nature Sidebar

Last year, the Reel Nature series of the Film Fest was very much a “side” bar — all of its screenings were at the Museum of Natural History, which is decidedly off the fest’s downtown circuit. This year, much to series coordinator and accomplished nature filmmaker Mike deGruy’s joy, the Reel Nature sidebar is very much integrated into the downtown scene — in addition to all of the nightly screenings taking place at the regular fest venues, even the second annual presentation of the Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking (to James Cameron, see page 53) is taking place close to State Street, at the Marjorie Luke.

That’s not to say that the museum is taking a backseat, however, as deGruy attests that the entire series is very much the product of a team effort with museum staffers Sheila Cushman and Jeff Barber. Plus, from Tuesday through Friday, buses will deliver 350 county schoolkids twice daily to the museum for a special 3-d screening of Cameron’s Aliens of the Deep. Considering that 2,800 kids will come through, the museum might even be busier than last year.

In addition to the kid stuff and the award presentation, deGruy’s proud of the panel he’s assembled for a chat on Saturday, February 4, at 2 p.m. With deGruy as a moderator, nature filmmaking will get a thorough once-over by such formidable vets as Phil Fairclough (producer of Grizzly Man), Howard and Michelle Hall (creators of numerous popular nature films), and Keenan Smart (head of the National Geographic Channel’s natural history unit).

Oh yes, the films. This year’s original theme was Exploration, according to deGruy, but it was refined instead to be Nature on the Big Screen. As such, nightly screenings will include March of the Penguins and Grizzly Man as well as to-be-classics such as Queen of Trees (about a fig tree, a wasp, and an ecosystem), Deep Blue (a film-length version of the Blue Planet television series), Bug World (a glimpse at the insects of your home), and Animal Olympics (a comedic John Downer flick). There’s also a night of Devil’s Teeth (a 10-minute short about urchin diving amid great whites at the Farallon Islands) paired with Dolphins: Deep Thinkers (about the intelligence of that species). And thanks to deGruy’s tireless effort, each of the screenings will be followed by a Q&A with the respective filmmakers or producers.

Not bad for a volunteer effort with no corporate sponsorship, eh?

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