Being under the age of 35, well educated, tattooed and musically inclined, Joe Wells doesn’t fit the typical mold of a shepherd. But it’s the lifestyle that fits him, the vocation he has chosen. And in a society where many consumers have lost connection to their food and countless jobs have been replaced by technology, he occupies a rarified place, one dictated by bleating lambs, kicking hooves, yipping dogs, early mornings, the whims of nature and the inexorable cycles of life and death. A Shepherd offers an intimate look at Wells’ life in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where his bond with his flock is raw, co-dependent and ineffable.
High in Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains, a large and homely frog once thrived, a species endemic to altitude and cold water named Telmatobius culeus. But over-collecting for human consumption, pollution and predation by introduced species have devastated the Titicaca water frog — which has a hard enough life as is, given its resemblance to a certain human sexual organ and the many unflattering nicknames that has spawned. In 2016, 10,000 frogs died all at once, and it wasn’t the first mass die-off this critically endangered species has experienced. This short film from The Redford Center shines a new light on these underappreciated animals, showing their amazing adaptability, crucial role in the aquatic ecosystem and what’s at stake — unless humans intervene.
The perfect flight for a falcon is the one that yields a kill. And food. For falconer Shawn Hayes, the perfect flight arcs higher: It shares with others the love and awe he feels from partnering with a wild animal — sharing with kids, especially, to help keep them away from a life of trouble.
Each year, hundreds of turtles are admitted to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, a donation-fueled medical clinic that administers to the ancient and fascinating reptiles. Hit by cars, damaged by boats or mauled by predators, they come in broken. And under the expertise of Dr. Sue Carstairs and her team, the reptiles are nursed back to life (when possible), their babies are hatched and raised, and more turtles are released to the wild than are admitted. In Fix and Release, director Scott Dobson manages to tell an an uplifting story of wildlife that also conveys the incredible qualities of an overlooked animal. Incredibly resilient, long-lived and vital to wetlands, turtles finally get some well-deserved time in the limelight.
In the vanishing lowland rainforests of Borneo, research is underway to uncover and understand the unique cultural behaviors in wild orangutans before it’s too late. There, photographer Tim Laman, researcher Cheryll Knott and young explorer Robert Suro have documented these incredible animals in action as the orangutans make pillows, fashion umbrellas and display their greetings. The project, 20 years in the making, offers a fascinating glimpse into the habits of these apes, as well as a window into human evolution. And with habitat disappearing at an alarming rate, the research may prove to be key in protecting this critically endangered species.
In a realm of highly industrialized agriculture — the vast sugar plantations of the denatured Florida Everglades — rabbits are a byproduct of the crop. The rabbits flee the mechanical sugar cane harvest and subsequent field burnings and are hunted by nearby residents for food and profit. This short verite film chronicles one family’s hunt, offering the audience a glimpse into a modern and urban twist on subsistence.