Inspiring change: Legendary rock climber will introduce green film festival at college |

Inspiring change: Legendary rock climber will introduce green film festival at college

The South Shore will host one of rock climbing’s legends this weekend at an environmental film festival at Lake Tahoe Community College.

Ron Kauk was the man dangling in thin air in the opening scene of “Mission Impossible 2,” where he was a stunt double for Tom Cruise.

But Kauk really made his mark on the rock-climbing world in the 1970s. He pushed the sport to another level by free climbing some of the hardest routes in existence, which had previously only been approached with aid gear.

More recently, Kauk has become known for his calm, Zen-like approach to promoting environmental protection. A shortened version of his film “Return to Balance – A Climber’s Journey” will be shown at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival this Saturday at the college theater.

“Most of my education has been received from nature, from climbing in Yosemite, spending days on El Capitan and Half Dome when I was a teenager,” Kauk said. “It taught me a lot of values about simplicity.”

He’d like to use this “higher” education to inspire others to connect more with nature, he said.

Kauk is one of several big names that have supported the festival. Redwood crusader Julia Butterfly Hill, American Indian activist Winona La Duke, and speed climber Hans Florine have attended previous festivals.

The festival was born in Nevada City four years ago from the Yuba City Citizens League. Clothing company Patagonia helped launch a touring version this year, and brought the festival to South Lake Tahoe with help from Sierra Nevada Alliance.

Organizers distilled the original two-day festival down to six films from around the world, which include hang gliding over Mount Everest and restoring the lost valley of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite.

Director Kathy Dotson said she watches about 250 films a year to choose the best. The festival has always been dominated by environmental documentaries, with a sampling of adventure films. Dotson said their purpose is to be inspiring.

“Every one knows the doom-and-gloom reality, but at the same time there is hope, and there are tons of people working to make a difference and create sustainable communities,” Dotson said. “We want to show how serious the problem is, but we always want to give people a sense of hope and that there are practical things we can do to change outcomes.”

Kauk had a similar focus.

“I don’t try to put too much worry or concern about what’s going to happen and focus more about what you can do starting with yourself,” he said. “What’s in store for us, it’s hard to say. It doesn’t look good. But yet, when you realize that people are praying for the land, air and water, you never know.”

For details, call (530) 542-4546 or visit

If you go

What: Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

Where: Lake Tahoe Community College Theater

When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10, available at Patagonia@Heavenly, the League to Save Lake Tahoe visitor’s center at the “Y” and the Sierra Nevada Alliance at 2489 Lake Tahoe Boulevard Suite #21.

Film lineup

— “Zoltan”

Brendan Kiernan (5 minutes)

Will Zoltan, international lover of rivers and “professional” tuber, ever gain respect in the world of whitewater? He may be up for a fight, but you can’t help but love the guy.

— “Motel”

Thor Freudenthal (8 minutes)

A weary traveler stops at a motel for the night. When all of his desires are given to him, it may just be too good to be true.

— “SUV Luv”

Colin Campbell (15 minutes)

It’s the classic love triangle: a girl, a guy, and a SUV. He loves her, she loves her car, and the car wants to crush his environmental-activist skull beneath its steel-belted tires. Clearly, something must give! Third Place, Best Short Comedy, New Haven Film Festival, 2003.

— “Discover Hetch Hetchy”

David Vassar (19 minutes)

Called Yosemite’s twin, the Hetch Hetchy Valley was lost to a dam and reservoir in 1923. But now, with the help of organizations like Restore Hetch Hetchy and Environmental Defense, its restoration could become a reality. Through magnificent cinematography, we learn more about one of the most epic campaigns of our time. 2006 Best Short, Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

— “Return to Balance – A Climber’s Journey”

Sterling Johnson, Ron Kauk (15 minutes)

Through imagery and occasional narration, world-class rock climber Ron Kauk relates his insights and stories in a simple way, showing our relationship with nature. 2005 People’s Choice, Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

— Intermission and raffle

(20 minutes)

— “Flying Over Everest”

Fabio Toncelli (60 minutes)

A man, a bird, and a mountain. Angelo d’Arrigo, world champion hang glider, attempts to be the first to hang glide over Mount Everest. By his side will be two Steppe Eagles, now extinct in the region. As part of an attempt to reintroduce them to the area, he will teach them the ancient migratory routes that once took them from Tibet to Nepal each year. The tales and the legends of this ancient Himalayan land will form the backdrop of an adventure story like no other. Multiple awards, including 2006 Most Inspiring Adventure Film, Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival, 1st prize Chamois International Film Festival; Best Adventure Film, Telluride MountainFilm

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