James Prosek is much like an artist in the tradition of nineteenth-century naturalists who cataloged the world as they discovered it. The difference is that Prosek paints creatures that are vanishing and hopes that by helping audiences to “know” these threatened creatures, he will improve their chances for survival. And so he quests after some 40 different Atlantic fish species — swordfish off Newfoundland, giant groupers in the Bahamas, a 900-pound black marlin in the Cape Verde Islands — to capture them exactly as they appear alive in the wild. Working at the nexus of art, culture and the environment, Prosek also adds an adventurer’s sensibility to the sad story of collapsing Atlantic fisheries. This short film depicting his bold project was made by Hal Clifford and Jason Houston (Stone River, Mountainfilm 2010 and eel/water/rock/man, Mountainfilm 2011) and was supported, in part, by a 2011 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant.
The waters surrounding the island of South Georgia are as treacherous as any on the planet. Even at the most inviting times of year, winds are apt to top hurricane force and roughly coax dark ocean swells to a riotous crescendo. Not surprisingly, no one had ever solo-kayaked around the island. Perhaps no less surprising, wilderness guide and expedition leader Hayley Shephard takes up the challenge. Shephard is a passionate and off-kilter character with an endearing penchant for tilting at improbable odds. In this case, it’s not just circumnavigation of the remote, wind-and-wave-battered island, but Shephard’s hope to help save the great albatross that is severely threatened by overfishing, longline fishing and the plastic detritus that too often ends up in albatross bellies.
How about these numbers: Americans spent $165 billion on consumer electronics in 2010, and we bought more than 260,000 computers a day. E-waste is the fastest-growing stream of waste in the world (there are approximately 40 million metric tons of it each year worldwide) and is the subject of this fast-paced film by Isaac Brown and Eric Flagg, who were previously at Mountainfilm in 2007 with Gimme Green. The filmmakers have made (with the help of a 2010 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant) an important documentary that turns statistics into a human story of many people — gamers who need the newest high-definition screen, an earnest and effective American recycler and children in Ghana who break apart the toxic remains of our computers, cell phones and televisions. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t prohibit the export of its e-waste, so these children are exposed to the lead, cadmium and mercury from computers once used by the Connecticut Department of Health and the EPA.