Lincoln and Alice Day in their home garden. Their five shorts will be shown as part of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. (Mark Jenkins/For The Washington Post)

This year’s Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, which runs from March 17 to 29, includes three programs of documentaries on local issues and the work of several D.C. filmmakers. But the two categories don’t necessarily overlap.

Liz Norton, Ryan Killackey, and Alice and Lincoln Day are all Washington-based filmmakers. Of the four, only Norton will screen a movie about a hometown subject: “The Anacostia River: Making Connections,” which will be shown March 18 and 22.

Killackey will premiere a short, work-in-progress version of his feature-length documentary, “Yasuni Man.” The film, showing March 20, is about an Ecuadorean nature preserve under pressure to develop. The Days will debut five shorts, four of them offshoots of their 2008 film, “Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War.”

The Days met as sociology graduate students 62 years ago and moved to Washington when they retired about 40 years later. They became regulars at the Environmental Film Festival and eventually joined its advisory council.

“After a couple of years of this,” Lincoln Day recalled, “my wife said, ‘We’ve seen wonderful films from all over the world . . . but we’ve never seen anything about the effects of war and preparations for war on the environment.’ ”

A filmmaker overheard them and said, “ ‘You have a film, and you have to make it,’ ” he continued. “So that’s what happened.”

“We started from scratch as filmmakers,” Alice Day added, “but we started with lots of preparation at working as a team, because we’d written books together. We both have PhDs. We were conversant with doing research and writing.”

The Days’ new film that doesn’t use footage shot for “Scarred Lands” is “What We Have Left Behind in Iraq,” assembled from about 3,000 photos by a U.S. military veteran. He met the filmmakers at a California college appearance and offered the images. The Days combined them with voiceover commentary from an interview with the veteran.

The message of all the Days’ movies is “that war is hell and stupid, I suppose,” Lincoln Day said with a laugh. “And that it’s a great threat to the natural environment on which all life depends.”

“The Anacostia River: Making Connections” has a similarly expansive outlook. Norton’s 11-minute movie is “not really an environmental film,” she said. “It’s a film about a community, and a city that’s really divided.”

Although a D.C. native, Norton didn’t really know the Anacostia until she began to interview people who lived near it or were involved with restoring it. She met one east-of-the-river native who told a story, from when he was a boy a few decades ago, that she found poignant.

The boy and some friends went to a favorite spot and discovered that all the animals there were dead. He told his father, who just told him to stay away from the river in the future. So the boy and his friends “called 911,” Norton said. “They said, ‘The fish and the turtles are dead in the river. It’s an emergency!’ ”

Years later, the emergency is easing. “Enormous progress has been made over the past 20 years,” Norton said. “The river will be swimmable and fishable in, like, the next 15 years, which is incredible.”

“Yasuni Man” tells a less hopeful story, said Killackey, a Montana-trained wildlife biologist who’s worked periodically as an eco-tourism guide in Ecuador since 2005.

Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is “considered to be the single most biologically diverse place in the world,” he said. “Inside this forest are two groups of uncontacted people who are living in voluntary isolation. Below this biosphere you have Ecuador’s largest oil fields.”

He began the film six years ago and recently completed a rough cut. “We’re finally to the stage where we’re just trying to get the finishing funds and search for distribution,” he said. “This was a really good platform for us to be able to show the work-in-progress to some people, get some feedback as well as bring a little bit of this important story out to the public.”

Killackey runs his own D.C.-based production company, working for PBS, National Geographic and other clients. Norton is the executive director of Stone Soup, a nonprofit group that uses donated skills to make films for charities and community groups.

While they juggle multiple projects, the Days said they have nothing in the pipeline. “We’re not going to make another film, but we have a certain amount of knowledge we’ve accumulated,” Alice Day said. “If we can help other people, that would interest us.”

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

For information on the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, visit www.dceff.
org
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