by Sandy Cannon-Brown

The Chesapeake Bay is about 200 miles long and from 4- to 30-miles wide, but its fingers reach deep into the land, creating a waterway of rivers, creeks and streams that expand the size of the Bay by a factor of about 20. Each of those extensions of the Bay has its own personality, a diversity of residents above, below and along, and – unfortunately – a variety of threats.

This summer, Dave Harp and I spent many memorable days out on the water to capture the love affair between riverkeepers and the rivers they work tirelessly to protect. The stars of our films include Joe Fehrer of The Nature Conservancy and his beloved Nassawango Creek, and Matt Pluta (Choptank), Elle Bassett (Miles/Wye) and Zack Kelleher (Sassafras) of ShoreRivers. The support cast includes Nick Carter, a retired biologist and aquatic scientist, and Wayne Gilchrist, former Congressman for the Eastern Shore who championed the Bay during his 18 years in Washington.

Our river films premiere during the Chesapeake Film Festival on Friday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the newly renovated Avalon Theatre in Easton. The screening follows a reception at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center co-hosted by the Festival, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, ShoreRivers, The Nature Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. A panel discussion follows the screening. For tickets go to chesapeakefilmfestival.com.

Dave, an extraordinary environmental photographer for more than 40 years, began channeling his talents into film four years ago when he and I – and esteemed Bay writer Tom Horton – made our first film together, Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, about those who catch, study and eat blue crabs. Since then we have produced High Tide in Dorchester, about the consequences of global warming and rising sea levels in one of Maryland’s most vulnerable counties, and An Island Out of Time, a celebration and elegy for Smith Island, a place beset with erosion, dwindling population and vanishing economic opportunities.

The Friday night reception, screening and panel is just one of many sessions devoted to environmental issues during the week-long Chesapeake Film Festival beginning Thursday, October 3 and continuing through Thursday, October 10.

On Saturday, October 5 environmental films dominate the lineup at the Talbot County Free Library, the Avalon Theatre and Easton Premiere Cinemas.

Films at the library are free, including Conowingo Dam: Power on the Susquehanna at 1 p.m. Produced by Maryland Public Television, this documentary explores the impact of the dam on the Chesapeake Bay beginning with its construction in 1926. A panel discussion explores the on-going debate about how to address the growing problem of sediment and nutrient pollution washing downstream from Pennsylvania and New York.

Saving Sea Turtles caps the free day at the library at 3 p.m. Narrated by renowned marine scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle, the film highlights the largest airlift of an endangered species anywhere in the United States and possibly the world.

The Avalon Theatre offers two powerful environmental films on Saturday. At 12:30 p.m., the Festival presents Tigerland, directed by Academy Award winner Ross Kauffman for the Discovery Channel. In the face of corruption and cultural apathy, a Russian scientist and a conservation-minded family in India lead inspirational tiger-preservation movements to keep the legendary animal from disappearing entirely. A discussion follows with Kauffman and producer Xan Parker.

At 7:00 p.m. at the Avalon, a dramatic documentary thriller, Sea of Shadows, follows undercover investigators in their efforts to rescue the vaquita, the earth’s smallest whale, from extinction as they expose an expansive black-market ring.

At Easton Premier Cinemas (EPC), environmental films begin at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday with a documentary short, Seismology, an exploration of the importance of seismology in understanding Earth processes. The day at EPC continues with The Pollinators, which follows migratory beekeepers throughout a growing season as we learn how some agricultural practices, pesticides and politics are making the simple act of pollination more difficult.

At 12:30 at EPC, Hometown Habitat features renowned entomologist Dr. Douglas Tallamy, whose research, books and lectures on the use of non-native plants in landscaping, sound the alarm about habitat and species loss. Following the screening, Catherine Zimmerman – filmmaker, author and certified horticulturist and landscape designer – will lead a discussion about the benefits of native plants and meadowscaping.

On Sunday, October 6, the Festival dedicates a full day of environmental films at 447 Gallery in Cambridge, Maryland. The day begins at noon with a program of short films, including Lowland Kids about two Louisiana teens who fight to stay in their home on an island threatened by climate change. Their story could be told by counterparts in Dorchester County!

Sharkwater: Extinction at 4:00 p.m. is a thrilling and inspiring, action-packed journey that follows filmmaker Rob Stewart as he exposes the massive illegal shark fin industry. A discussion follows with shark scientists. Among its awards, Sharkwater: Extinction won the Shared Earth Foundation Award for Advocacy at the DC Environmental Film Festival. (A second screening is scheduled for Thursday, October 10 at Easton Premier Cinemas at 2:30 p.m.)

The finale of the exciting day of environmental films in Cambridge is The Human Element, an arresting new documentary from the producers of Racing Extinction, The Cove, and Chasing Ice. The film follows environmental photographer James Balog as he captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change, including the people of Tangier Island, VA. A panel discussion follows with local scientists and environmentalists about efforts to combat climate change.

On Tuesday, October 7, at the Easton Premier Cinemas, the Festival proudly presents Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. This stunning film follows an international team of scientists who spent 10 years researching the profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.