What happens when an outdoor clothing company makes a film? Fish, dams, and a conservation message are front and center. The movie is titled DamNation, and shows in Carbondale this weekend at the Five Point Film Festival. It’ll be the first showing in Colorado.
DamNation aims to show dams are generally a bad idea and better off removed. One of the most striking points in the film, is how many dams are already being taken out in different parts of the country.
The movie came about after a conversation between Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, and a guy named Matt Stoecker. Stoecker is a restoration ecologist in southern California. He says this was the motivator:
“Just talking about the need to make a film about removing dams and restoring free flowing rivers, to build this growing momentum that’s kind of sweeping across this country to take out these obsolete dams.”
Stoecker says they didn’t set out to make Patagonia’s first full length film… it’s more than an hour long… there were just so many stories they wanted to tell, it just kept getting longer.
Chouinard is Executive Director of the film. In a statement about the film, Patagonia says the company is concerned smaller dams aren’t worth the tradeoff… citing the effects on river health, relatively low production of hydroelectric power, and related greenhouse gas emissions.
The film spends lots of time in the Pacific Northwest, where salmon are unable to spawn because of dams. It also takes a look at one of the granddaddy water projects in the Southwest… the Glen Canyon dam. Stoecker says he thinks the film carries lessons for local residents wondering about reservoirs here in Colorado.
“It’s a little more subtle, the impacts, but just as profound when you think about the native fish and the other aquatic species that use those river systems.
Dams can mean higher temperatures in the water--which can kill native fish, but are more hospitable for nonnative species. Five Point Executive Director Sarah Wood says even if much of the film isn’t about Colorado per se, it still feels like a good fit for festival viewers.
“Because it touches on all these other user groups, whether you are a kayak without getting stopped by a dam or maybe the dam took away that white water, or maybe you’re a fisherman, or whether you are coming from the environmental side.”
Other films at Five Point this year cover a wide range of outdoor adventures and rescue and recovery stories. There’s also one featuring the journey a Roaring Fork Valley resident takes in South America.
While many of its films have a message, Wood says the festival has a new twist this year.
“One thing we’re really proud of this year is making that connection between these stories in the films, and our recreation and taking action, and getting them involved in some area nonprofits.”
That’s mainly through a nonprofit fair on Saturday and Sunday. The Five Point Film Festival runs throughout the weekend, in Carbondale.