EcoFilm Fest promotes activism for sixth year

Photograph by Riley Hanna

By Riley Hanna

From Sept. 27 to Sept. 30, the Hollywood Theatre showcased their 6th annual EcoFilm Festival. The festival showed ten feature films and a number of short films, encompassing a broad range of environmental issues.

“The Beaver Believers,” a documentary by Sarah Koeningsberg, puts a positive spin on our current environmental crisis. The film discusses how scientists and environmental advocates have introduced beavers into ecosystems that have suffered drought, which drastically improved the environments in a short amount of time. One of the main subjects of the film is an endearingly kooky hairdresser and beaver-advocate named Sherri Tippie. Her humor coupled with her love of these cute, semi-aquatic rodents makes this film a pleasure to watch. The overall message is that we should collaborate and reconnect with nature to effectively combat climate change.

Another film showcases a much more spiritual perspective on wildlife conservation. “Intraterrestrial: A Fleeting Contact” focuses on the intelligence of dolphins and whales, which is comparable to humans. Unlike human beings, these animals live in harmony with their surroundings, the universe, and other species. The film argues that if humans lived more like these gentle giants, the world would be a better place. Combined with stunning underwater footage, an original musical score that unites both instruments and whale songs and poetry, the film offers a unique viewpoint.

“Elephant Path (Njaia Njoku)” won the award for Best Feature Film. Directed by a first-time filmmaker and Portland native, Todd McGrain, the film follows elephant and forest conservationists in Bayanga, Central African Republic. The conservationists tracked and protected forest elephants on the verge of extinction in Dzanga National Park. Juxtaposed with the plight of these elephants are the lives and hardships of the indigenous people. During filming, Seleka rebels stormed and terrorized the local village, killing more forest elephants for their ivory. The film highlights the peaceful indigenous people’s struggles with this rebel group. The parallel McGrain draws between the natives and the elephants coupled with the jarring footage he captured gives the film a powerful, lasting resonance.

The festival partnered with various environmental conservation organizations such as Oregon Wild, Sea Shepherd, Northwest Veg and the Lewis & Clark Legal Animal Defense Fund. The organizations were provided a platform to share their missions and upcoming events with festival-goers, giving inspired viewers ways they can make an impact.

Another highlight of the EcoFilm Festival was the presentation of the award “Eco Hero” to a scientist featured in the films. The award was given to Suzanne Fouty, a hydrologist interviewed in the film “The Beaver Believers.” Not only were filmmakers showcased, but the efforts of the scientists that typically work in the shadows were acknowledged and celebrated.

Dawn Smallman, the Festival Director and Programmer for the EcoFilm Festival, stated the goals of the event. “We want the festival to be a fun, interesting way for people to come together and watch films. But, our ultimate goal of the festival is using movies as a way to strengthen the environmental advocacy community within Portland” she said. She believes that only love of nature can spark the desire to protect it, and film is a way to create awareness.

On a personal note, the EcoFilm Festival provided an amazing opportunity for me to network with other environmental advocates and journalists in the community. Sadly, I was the only LC undergraduate student in attendance. In light of that, Smallman and I decided to collaborate for next year’s festival by creating a student film jury, so students can have a voice in selecting the films.


For more information, you can email Smallman at


For more information on the feature films mentioned, refer to these websites:


“The Beaver Believers”:


“Intraterrestrial: A Fleeting Contact”:


“Elephant Path (Njaia Njoku)”:

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