Arts & Events

Keeping It Wild: The San Francisco Green Film Festival

Gar Smith
Wednesday April 13, 2016 - 12:36:00 PM

Various SF and Berkeley screenings from April 14 - 20, 2016

San Francisco's Green Film Festival is back with its sixth annual selection of illuminating environmental cinema. This year, the Festival's theme is "Keep It Wild" and the SFGFF delivers with 70 internationally acclaimed films and screening venues that span the Bay, from SF to Berkeley.

The Festival has attracted more than 90 filmmakers and guest speakers who will be on hand to reflect on pressing environmental issues and solutions. According to the festival organizers, "Audiences will be inspired to move beyond their theatre seats, with tangible ideas and connections to take positive environmental action."

There are far too many films to write about. Some highlights follow. A complete calendar of screenings can be found online here.




The Festival will make its home at the Roxie Theatre from April 15 through 19. Opening Night is set for the Castro Theatre on Thursday, April 14, and the festival returns to the Castro for its closing night on April 20. Other Green Screens will light up in SF— at FestHQ (518 Valencia), the Koret Auditorium (SF Public Library Main Branch;), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts—and in Berkeley—at the Goldman Theater (David Brower Center, 2150 Addison), and the Banatao Auditorium (Suturdja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley Campus). 

The festival kicks-off at the Castro with Oscar-nominated (Gasland) director Josh Fox's latest film. How to Let Go of the World is one of several Green Fest films that were completed in the aftermath of the December 2015 climate deal in Paris. Fox's documentary takes the audience to 12 countries on 6 continents, as Fox asks people—from the Amazon to Samoa to the smog-choked cities of China—an existential question: "What is it that climate change can't destroy?" Amazon Watch will be co-hosting the opening night screening and was involved on-the-ground in the filming of Fox's journeys through Ecuador and the Peruvian Amazon. 

Josh Fox will be in attendance for the San Francisco Premiere of the film and will be joined by Amazon Watch Executive Director Leila Salazar-Lopez for a Q&A after the screening. Thursday, April 14 at the Castro Theatre at 7:30pm  


An American Ascent, the Centerpiece presentation, comes from directors Andrew Adkins and George Potter, whose cameras follow nine African Americans on a pioneering journey to the top of Mount Denali, America's highest peak. Scott Briscoe, a Bay Area climber and star of the film, will be on hand for the San Francisco Premiere. Sunday, April 19 at the Roxie Theatre at 8:30pm. 



The festival will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hollywood's classic wildlife flick, Born Free. Film star Virginia McKenna, whose Born Free Foundation is dedicated to protecting Africa's wild lions, will be in SF to receive the 2016 Inspiring Lives Award at the screening. Wednesday, April 20 at the Castro Theatre at 6.30pm

The Green Film Fest winds up with the World Premiere of San Francisco director Mark Decena's Not Without Us, a moving first-hand account of the Paris Climate Summit with seven grassroots activists from around the world who convened in Paris to push world leaders to stop catastrophic climate change. Unfortunately, the COP21agreement was not strong enough to assure the climate can be stabilized, so the question becomes, "Ultimately, is it up to us?" Decena will be at the Castro to accept the 2016 Green Tenacity Award, along with international activists from the film. Wednesday, April 20 at the Castro Theatre at 9.15pm

Bay Area Films and Filmmakers 

The Festival will showcase 13 film shorts from Bay Area filmmakers, including Trailhead (directors Emily Fraser, Henry Wiener) celebrating Oakland's wildlife trails; Camel Gastrolith (director Chris Jordan) a gut-wrenching investigation of plastic litter inside a camel's stomach; Fight for Areng Valley (director Kalyanee Mam) documenting the struggle of the indigenous people of Cambodia's Areng Valley to defend their spirit forests; and 5 Blocks (directors Robert Cortlandt, Dan Goldes), a work-on-progress on the evolution of San Francisco's central Market Street. 


An Acquired Taste. World Premiere. Vanessa LeMaire-Workman in person. Don't expect to be spoon-fed by this documentary as a new generation of Bay Area locavores decides that the best alternative to factory farms, is to return to traditional hunting and gathering. Squirrel pies, anyone? Saturday, April 16 at the Roxie Theatre at 3:30pm. 

Some Added Highlights 

Nature's Orchestra. A San Francisco Premiere. Director Stephen Most in person. Follow famed musician and acoustic scientist Bernie Krause as he journeys to the Arctic on "soundscape expedition" to record increasingly rare natural sounds that are vanishing from the planet forever. After the film, there will be a Soundscape Ecology Walk through the Yerba Buena Gardens. Saturday, April 16 at the YBCA at 4:00pm. 

Of the Sea. Mischa Hedges in person. Featuring local SF fishers with representatives from Real Good Fish and Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program. Struggling against complex regulations, rising costs, and competition from corporate fish-farms and cheap imported seafood, Bay Area fishers and entrepreneurs are exploring new paths to secure the future of local and sustainable busineses. Sunday, April 17 at the Roxie Theatre at 3:00pm.  

Parrots, Pelicans, and People: Oh My! For fans of Judy Irving's beloved film, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The program will include clips from Irving's films and an extended conversation with the director and the audience. Sunday, April 17 at 518 Valencia at 3:30pm. 

World Premiers 

Freightened. French director Denis Delestrac (SAND WARS) has engineered a daring investigation into global impacts of shipping freight by ship. With 90% of the West's food and consumer items sourced from overseas, container ships have a major (but largely hidden) impact our the global economy and environment. Saturday, April 16 at the Roxie Theatre at 5:45pm.  

I Am Chut Wutty. Cambodian environmentalist Chut Wutty was murdered after defying threats and intimidation during his investigations of much-feared logging syndicates and rubber plantations. What lies ahead for his friends who are still fighting to defend their forests? Sunday, April 17 at the Roxie Theatre at 6:00pm. 

A River Between Us. San Francisco Premiere. Jason Atkinson in person. The mighty Klamath River runs from southern Oregon to Northern California, past rival communities that have fought over the river's water for more than a century. Can a renewed push for compromise lead to the largest river restoration project in US history? Saturday, April 16 at Roxie Theatre at 1:00pm.  

The Anthropologist. San Francisco Premiere. Daniel Miller in person. An engaging study of two incredible women: cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead and environmental anthropologist Susie Crate. The lives of both are illuminated by their daughters' memories. Their observations of how societies react to stress and disruption are especially relevant today. Tuesday, April 19 at Roxie Theatre at 6:30pm. 

The Babushkas of Chernobyl. San Francisco Premiere. It may come as a surprise but the contaminated "Exclusion Zone" surrounding the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor is still inhabited by "a defiant community of women [who] continue to scratch out an existence on its toxic land." Sunday, April 17 at the Roxie Theatre at 8:00pm

The Burden. San Francisco Premiere. The Pentagon is the world's largest consumer of oil—and a major produce of climate-changing Greenhouse Gases. Forward-looking members of the military are calling for a transition to clean energy but an intransigent Congress remains a well-oiled machine in the clutches of the Carbon Cartel. Followed by a discussion with the Truman National Security Project. Monday, April 18 at the Roxie Theatre at 6:30pm


Catching the Sun. San Francisco Premiere. Shalini Kantayya in person. This film investigates the growth of clean-energy alternatives with profiles of trainees at a solar jobs program in Richmond, CA and interviews with a Chinese CEO and SF Bay Area community activist Van Jones. Winner of the 2016 Best Feature Award. Saturday, April 16 at the Roxie Theatre at 8:30pm

Containment. San Francisco Premiere. How do we secure toxic radioactive wastes for 10,000 years? No country on Earth has solved this intractable problem. The filmmakers travel from New Mexico to Fukushima to interview the people who are desperately trying to find a solution to protect future generations. Saturday, April 16 at the Roxie Theatre at 6:00pm


Dear President Obama. West Coast Premiere. Jon Bowermaster in person. Actor and producer Mark Ruffalo narrates this appeal to the President to put an end to the dirty, polluting, and quake-producing process of "fracking" for buried oil. The film includes little-known contamination incidents that have occurred in California. Sunday, April 17 at the Roxie Theatre at 5:30pm; and Monday, April 18 at UC Berkeley at 6:00pm. 

Ice and the Sky by Luc Jacquet (March of the Penguins) has its California Premiere in Berkeley with a stirring profile of climate-change pioneer Claude Lorius, a noted glaciologist who was among the first to sound the alarm about global warming. Monday, April 18 at the Roxie Theatre at 8:30pm; and Tuesday, April 19 at the David Brower Center at 7:00pm. 

Topophilia is a filmmakers' overview of the 800-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Using time-lapse photography to capture stunning images, the film documents the calamitous collision of industrial plunder and nature. Saturday, April 16 at 518 Valencia at 4:00pm. 

Saving Mes Aynak. San Francisco Premiere. Brent E. Huffman in person. 

A 5,000-year-old Buddhist city in Afghanistan faces demolition to make room for a Chinese-owned copper mine. Afghan archaeologists, trying to save the ancient cultural site, not only have to battle against the Chinese, but also the Taliban and local politicians. Saturday, April 16 at the Roxie Theatre at 3:45pm  

The True Cost examines the impacts and consequences of the imported clothes we wear. Who really pays the price for the West's bargain-basement shopping sprees? Sunday, April 17 at the Roxie Theatre at 1:30pm.  

Two Short Film Mini-festivals 

The Festival will be showcasing 40 new, international shorts (including seven world premieres) in two dedicated shorts programs: KEEP IT WILD and SURF SHORTS. There also will be a short before every feature screening. Also included are winners from the Festival's Climate Action Film Contest and shorts created in our Youth Media Workshop. This program includes Nature RX winner of the Green Film Fest 2016 Best Short Award. Sunday, April 17 at the Roxie Theatre at 1:00pm. 


Surf Shorts. Dive into the world of the women surfers who are creating a new global wave-riding culture. These films catch a diverse swell of coast-smashing waves from San Francisco's fabled Ocean Beach (Inside the Mind of Sachi Cunningham), to Mexico's Baja, California (La Maestra) to (improbably enough) the Persian Gulf to meet Iran's tradition-breaking female surf-goddesses (Into the Sea). Friday, April 15 at Roxie Theatre at 9:00pm. 

The Green Film Fest Awards 

Best Feature Award: Shalini Kantayya, CATCHING THE SUN 

Best Short Award: Justin Bogardus, NATURE RX 

Green Tenacity Award: Mark Decena, NOT WITHOUT US 

Inspiring Lives Award: Virginia McKenna, BORN FREE 

Young Filmmaker Award: James Tralie, ESCAPE VELOCITY 

The Audience Award will be voted by Festival attendees and presented at the Closing Night Wrap Party. 

Ticket Information 

General Admission $15; Students, seniors and disabled adults $14; Members $13. Tickets for receptions and parties are individually priced. Free events are set for FestHQ (518 Valencia) on April 16 & 17 and at San Francisco Public Library Main Branch on April 19. See the Box Office for details.