Life After Water
Californian farmer Jesus Ramos was born in Mexico City and migrated with his family to the U.S. for a better life. He picked oranges in his youth and worked his way up to owning a 140-acre orange farm. As extreme drought wreaks havoc on the American West, Ramos finds himself on the front lines of a water shortage that threatens the future of his farm, his family and his community. Ramos’ condition mirrors that of many farmers in California’s once-fertile Central Valley. “Water — it makes life. Water disappears; the labor disappears. Water disappears; my farming disappears,” Ramos says. “Do you question your faith, your belief in God when you see these things? I try not to, but your tone changes whenever you talk to him. ‘Hey, you’re pushing a little hard, no?’”
As agricultural communities struggle while big coastal urban centers boom, farmers are cutting their losses and beginning to think about life after the fields.
Director: Andrew Michael Ellis
Cinematography: Andrew Michael Ellis, Alex Miskei, Ryan Youngblood
Editor and Producer: Andrew Michael Ellis, Eric Maierson, Brian Storm
Executive Producer: Brian Storm
Kamchatka Steelhead Project
Located between the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia’s remote Kamchatka Peninsula is home to some of the world’s most abundant steelhead runs. Under Russian law, the thick-bodied fish are protected as an endangered species, and it’s illegal to catch them — unless the fishing is done by anglers collecting biological data. The Kamchatka Steelhead Project is a U.S.-Russia partnership that monitors the steelhead population through catch and release, and over the course of 20 years it’s produced an extensive body of data about the fish in their wild and native habitat.
Before he passed away in December of 2014, Martin Litton helped save what’s left of the wilderness in the American West, most notably the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. His efforts preserved a wilderness experience worth quitting your day job. Any job. Unless your job is to row a dory down the mighty Colorado River through the national park. In that case, you’ve got best job in the world.
Martin’s Boat floats us down the giant hole in the ground known as the Grand Canyon with Duffy Dale, boatmaker and boatman for the river guide company Grand Canyon Dories, which was Litton’s creation. Duffy built a dory called Marble Canyon in honor of Litton, and it’s her maiden voyage down the river.
Along the way, the film celebrates the legacy of Litton, a larger-than-life man, fierce protector of wilderness, legendary boatman, eloquent writer and influential activist.
Holy (un)Holy River
What starts as a traditional expedition film at the source of the Ganges high in the Himalaya becomes something else as co-directors Pete McBride and Jake Norton — both previous Mountainfilm guests — journey downriver.
Although once celebrated for its purity, The Ganges now carries contaminates from its glacial headwaters, where freshly fallen snow contains zinc from industrial emissions. Downriver, the river is dammed 16 times (with another 14 dams under construction) to provide hydroelectric power. Water is diverted for agriculture and other uses, and the 500 million people in the Ganges basin further pollute the river with household trash, industrial waste, raw sewage and the remains of the dead.
Still, the Hindu faithful seek to cleanse away their sins by bathing in the holy water. As the title suggests, Holy (un)Holy River examines the paradox of a sacred river treated so profanely that it’s existence as a river, as opposed to an open sewer, is in question.