Silver screen untamed: Film, conservation and community coalesce at JH Wildlife Film Fest

By on September 17, 2013

91813cover1JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival brings some of the world’s top filmmakers to Jackson for a week of workshops, speakers and films.

Since it began in 1991, the biennial Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival has become recognized as one of the premier events in wildlife film. International leaders in science, conservation, broadcasting and media make their way to Jackson Hole for the festival, said executive director Lisa Samford.

The festival is about exploring conservation issues and emerging technologies, while also honoring the top wildlife films.

For the first time the festival will host the Conservation Summit, a four-day gathering of experts who will discuss the great apes. Samford said the hope is that each successive festival will include a conservation summit.

Also new this year is more public access to what is essentially an industry conference, with several opportunities for visitors and locals to listen to world experts and see some of the top wildlife films of the year.

“This is the first time we are really busting it open (to the public),” Samford said.


91813cover2Keynote speaker: Jane Goodall

7 p.m., Sunday, Center for the Arts

Jane Goodall’s landmark studies of chimpanzee behavior in 1960 forever linked her name to the animals. The Jane Goodall Institute, which she established in 1977, is a global leader in protecting chimpanzees and their habitats. She also started Roots and Shoots, a global environmental and humanitarian youth program that now connects thousands of young people in more than 120 countries and efforts to protect animals and the environment. Goodall has received numerous honors for her work with chimpanzees and travels the world speaking about the animals.

She will speak in the Center Theater at Center for the Arts Sunday night.

Tickets are $50 balcony, $100 orchestra and go on sale at noon on Sunday. Proceeds benefit Jane Goodall Institute.


Great Ape Summit

Saturday and Sunday, Center for the Arts

Human-made threats have pushed chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans to the brink of survival. Beginning Saturday, world experts will gather to discuss their dwindling populations and habitats.

91813thisweek.jhwffThe Great Apes Summit is a joint initiative of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Great Apes Survival Partnership and Arcus Foundation.

The summit brings together stakeholders from around the world and is put on in conjunction with the United Nations. It’s a rare opportunity that all the experts gather together, Samford said.

The goal of the summit is to create action plans to help apes and redefine their relationship with humans.

The summit will take place in Center Theater on Saturday and Sunday. The balcony will be open to the public for $10 per day. You can listen to the discussions or catch films in the Black Box Theatre.


Keynote Speaker: Daphne Sheldrick

7 p.m., Wednesday, Center for the Arts

Much like Jane Goodall’s name is attached to chimpanzees, Daphne Sheldrick is tied to elephants. “She’s an icon who has spent her entire life driven and committed to African conservation,” Samford said.

91813cover3-DaphneSheldrick is an author, conservationist and expert in raising and reintegrating orphaned elephants into the wild. From 1955 to 1976, she and her late husband ran Tsavo National Park. During that time she raised and rehabilitated elephants, black rhinos, buffalo, zebras, warthogs and other animals. She has continued to advocate on the international level for captive animals and is considered by most the world authority on African elephants and black rhinoceros.

It’s likely the last time Sheldrick will speak in the United States, Samford said, and not an event to be missed.

Tickets are $10 balcony seating, $20 orchestra.


Elephant Forum

7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 27, Center for the Arts

The plight of the elephants has perhaps never been so dire. “Elephants are being massacred at impressive rates,” Samford said.

The Elephant Forum focuses on the animals and their killers and begins with a screening of Battle for the Elephants, a film about the illegal ivory trade.

The film goes undercover, probing the deaths of the animals and the ivory trade in China. The film is balanced, showing the perspective of those involved in the trade and the decimation of the animals, Samford said.

“You walk away thinking, ‘holy crap,’” Samford said. “What is going to happen here? Can we stop this ever?”

Following the screening, the filmmakers and elephant experts, including Daphne Sheldrick, an icon in African conservation, will host a dialogue with the audience. It will be a chance to ask questions and talk about what can be done in the future to address this challenge.


Films at Jackson Lake Lodge


The is a free event and seating is first-come, first-served.

This is an obvious must. Some of the top wildlife filmmakers in the world show their work during the festival. Take advantage of seeing films on topics such as an illegal mine in the rainforests of Peru;  Wood Buffalo National Park or the migration of the monarch butterfly.

One film will transport you to Snowdonia National Park, where you will see it through the eyes of a game warden, farmer, climber and a poet. You’ll also travel through Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the tops of the Atlas Mountains, and peer into the future to see what it holds for a baby rhino, entering the world during a pivotal and dangerous time for its species. And you will learn “bird brain” isn’t as good an insult as you think in a film that documents bird intelligence so advanced it’s compared to the great apes.

This is only a sampling of what you can see. Purchase a 10-film punch pass, which can be shared, at Jackson Lake Lodge for $25.


If you can’t make it to the lodge, check out the “Best of the Festival,” Sept. 27 and 28, at the Center for the Arts. Winners in categories such as Wildlife Habitat, Grand Teton, and animal behavior will show for free starting at noon. There will also be a screening of the 3D showcase. “That’s going to be something fantastic,” Samford said. “We know the 3D is going to be brilliant.”

There will be a chance to catch some of the 3D films during the free showcase Friday and Saturday. There will also be screenings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Center for the Arts, for the 3D films The Last Reef, Flight of the Butterflies, Penguins and Titans of the Ice Age.


Keynote Speakers: Dereck & Beverly Joubert

7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28, Center for the Arts

Dereck and Beverly Joubert are award-winning filmmakers who have explored in Africa for more than 30 years, studying large predators and other key wildlife species that determine the course of conservation on the continent. They are also founders of the Big Cats Initiative with National Geographic, which funds 39 grants in 17 countries for the conservation of big cats.

It’s an evening all about big cats. They will talk about the plight of big cats and also their business Great Plains Conservation, which funds large tracts of land for wildlife protection.

The event is free.

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