When it comes to wildlife films, bigger usually means better.
Megafauna have no problem attracting the attention of filmmakers or audiences. If that’s your flavor, the 40th International Wildlife Film Festival has plenty of films about big creatures: Take your pick with feature-length films like “Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants,” “Gray Area: Wolves of the Southwest,” or “Operation Whale” (which is actually about sharks gathering around a whale carcass.)
And regarding the scale of a film, it doesn’t get bigger than the screenings of “Planet Earth 2,” the BBC’s blockbuster series. Montanans who haven’t seen it yet should take note: the second episode, “Mountains,” features work filmed in Yellowstone National Park by Montana filmmakers John Shier and Dawson Dunning.
While the larger features and creatures naturally draw your eye, film festivals are populated with short films, and in IWFF’s case, short films about smaller critters that are just as intriguing as bigger films.
All screenings take place at the Roxy Theater. For tickets and more information, go to wildlifefilms.org.
“Archives of Extinction,” 12 min. Directed by Alyse Takayesu
Friday, April 21, 3:45 p.m.
A narrator reads field notes circa 1901 about a collector shooting a rare species of Hawaiian bird, as viewers see row after row of drawers containing gorgeous dead specimens of island birds.
Initially, you may be saddened. However, viewers soon learn that with the mass extinction that’s occurred with island birds, those collectors may have provided one of the few examples of the species that still exists for scientists.
Alyse Takayesu’s quiet film, which makes excellent use of field recordings, pays a visit to the archives of extinct birds, and contemplates the cost they paid and the future information they can contribute: A scientist discussing gene studies that could someday allow the birds to be revived, as he says, “reconstructing valuable roles we see the environment needing now.”
“Running Wild,” 7 min., Daniel Schmidt
Friday, April 21, 4 p.m.
Ultra-runners, athletes who’ve trained their bodies to span up to a hundred miles at a time, often face an ethical quandary: They’ve dedicated countless hours to a pursuit that can seem selfish.
Some ultra-runners found a way to apply their rare abilities to a greater cause in Utah. In February 2014, a camera in the Uinta Mountains of Utah spied a wolverine. The sighting could indicate that the elusive species was expanding its range south, a phenomenon that begged to be confirmed and studied.
A group called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation set up a series of cameras spanning 80 miles in the remote range in hopes of sighting more wolverines. The problem is that they needed people who could visit all those cameras to retrieve footage and traps. Two ultra-runners eager to turn their passion for a greater good step in.
“Microsculpture,” 6 min., Tanya Cochran
Monday, April 17, 7 p.m.
Levon Biss, a commercial photographer in England, landed his largest museum show through his smallest subjects: insects. Shooting images of bugs with microscope lenses was initially a hobby for Biss, until he approached the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which houses the second largest insect collection in Britain. They were impressed by the level of detail in the photos, which are stitched together from thousands of individual photos. (He explains how he individually lights each antennae). The museum then partners with Biss for a show of photographs blown up to larger proportions than he ever imagined.