Movie News & Reviews

Nevada City’s Wild & Scenic films traverse summits and sand

Jeremy Collins, above, stars in “Drawn,” which also features current Yosemite climber-in-the-news Tommy Caldwell.
Jeremy Collins, above, stars in “Drawn,” which also features current Yosemite climber-in-the-news Tommy Caldwell.

Nevada City’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival will offer a cinematic topper to a newsworthy week in rock climbing.

Completing a film takes months or years, so the festival will not capture Tommy Caldwell’s and Kevin Jorgeson’s historic scaling of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall without climbing aids. But the Wild & Scenic films “Drawn” and “Valley Uprising,” which highlight Yosemite climbing, are at least adjacent to that climb.

Caldwell appears in “Drawn” (7 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday), which was made by fellow Coloradan Jeremy Collins and charts a physical and spiritual quest by Collins unfolding over years.

Collins will appear with his film at Wild & Scenic. He had planned to take a detour from Nevada City for a day to surprise Caldwell at the El Capitan summit. But Caldwell and Jorgeson progressed too quickly.

“I have been chatting with (Caldwell’s) wife daily,” charting the men’s progress, Collins said by phone from Colorado early this week.

Caldwell is part of the expedition in the “east” section of “Drawn,” which follows Collins’ bid to climb new territory in the four directions from his home – west (Yosemite), east (the China-Mongolia border), south (Venezuela) and north (Canada). The quest was part a tribute to Collins’ climbing mentor Jonny Copp, who died in a 2009 climbing accident in a different part of China.

The film intersperses live-action documentary with Collins’ pen-and-ink drawings, animated by motion graphics. Collins’ drawings illustrate some of the hairier moments the camera did not capture, such as the one in which a fierce storm temporarily halted Collins’ climb in China.

“If we don’t have footage of a circumstance, or we want to use a metaphor or (reference) a part of history, we have the ability to tell that story through animation,” Collins said. “As far as storytelling, that is much better than a talking head.”

For the Yosemite stretch, Collins chose a new route on Middle Cathedral. The national park offers an appeal to climbers beyond its abundance of granite walls, he said.

“There is a mixture of history and allure that surrounds every single peak there,” he explained. “You are not only there for the current experience, but you feel like you are tapping into the experience of years of history there.”

That wealth of collective experience informs “Valley Uprising” (1:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday). The “Riding Giants”-style doc tracks Yosemite Valley climbers from the Beat-generation pioneers living, in the words of one, a “dirtbag existence” that involved heavy drinking and eating cat food – to heavily sponsored yet still iconoclastic current-day climbers such as Sacramento native Alex Honnold.

“Every generation, they are pushing the envelope” at Yosemite, said Melinda Booth, the Wild & Scenic festival director.

The 130 films at Wild & Scenic, the primary annual fundraiser for the South Yuba River Citizens League – the conservation nonprofit that puts it on – range from sweeping adventure tales to how-to videos intent on raising environmental awareness at home.

Wild & Scenic will feature local shorts at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Among them is the 16-minute video “Main Street, Nevada City,” which follows the energy-efficient-themed renovation of a Nevada City home built in 1866.

“There are very strict historic rules in Nevada City,” said Debra Little, who shot the video. “The homeowner had to maintain some of the original walls and siding, and that was a big challenge.”

Just when it seemed Wild & Scenic could not get more down to earth, the festival strips it down to the granule with the documentary “Sand Wars” (6:45 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday), which shows how sand is becoming scarcer around the globe because of erosion and greed.

“Sand is in so many things you would not think of,” Booth said. “In computer chips and manufacturing. It is sort of a sleeper environmental issue.”

Call The Bee’s Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.


When: Friday-Sunday

Where: Various venues in Nevada City and Grass Valley

Cost: $20-$30 general, $15 for ages 17 and younger.