The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival is so much more than your basic film festival. This year featured more than a week of top new films screenings, filmmakers vying for prestigious awards, as well as a conservation summit to try to save African elephants and a festival for locals.
Started in 1991, each year the festival brings in the top wildlife films and industry professionals, but in recent years it’s expanded beyond just competition.
This year’s festival, which ran in late September and early October, the best new work in the wildlife genre, covering topics like the Congo River. in“Congo- Deep and Dangerous,” which won in the best wildlife habitat category. The film followed the world’s second longest river investigating the wildlife that depend on it.
As always the films spanned the globe. “The Batman of Mexico,” which won the “Best People and Nature” category, took viewers through guano-filled caves with “the Bat Man,” who has dedicated his life to saving one of the world’s least popular animals.
The films also covered a variety of wildlife. “The Messenger,” which won the “Best Conservation Program” category, looks at the plight of songbirds as they struggle to survive climate change, pesticides, predators and city lights. “Life Story – First Steps,” which won “Best Animal Behavior,” documents the hurdles animals face in the first few days of life and how that impacts chances of survival.
This year a record of nearly 1,000 entries competed for 23 awards. The panel of more than 150 international judges logged more than 3,000 hours picking the winners.
While the film competition lies at the heart of the festival, it has grown to reach out and touch people in Jackson Hole and around the world in new ways, said Lisa Samford, executive director.
This year the festival hosted a three-day conservation summit to address the decimation of African elephants. It brought stakeholders from science and conservation together with media content creators and distributors to collaborate on ways to preserve the species.
When the festival began, it was exclusively for industry professionals. In the last 15 years that’s changed with weekend screenings of winning films for Jackson Hole residents. That grew into this year’s eight-day Jackson Hole Wild Festival.
The Wild Festival is a community film festival that lets people attend premiere film screenings and keynote events to interact with some of the world’s top scientists, conservationists and filmmakers, Samford said. Some of the projects screened during the festival haven’t aired elsewhere, Samford said.Each day has a theme. This year there was an elephant day to tie into the summit, as well as ocean, Africa and big cats themes.
It’s a unique international experience, bringing together art along with conservation issues in a way that galvanizes people and you can’t find anything quite like it anywhere other than in Jackson Hole.