Nevada City locals, Terry Huntington, David Nicholson, and Suzanne Warren, helped make "Someplace with a Mountain," which is showing at the 10th Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City. This local flavor, however, channels one of the most profoundly global wavelengths you will see in any film.
Many hundred miles from other inhabited islands, a few atolls in the South Pacific peek about five feet above sea level. Living a life dream, Steve Goodall thought this the most precious place he had found in four years of sailing the vast ocean.
Making friends with the people, he found the courage to ask them what they would do about the rising seas. They did not know about the world's rising seas, but they knew that their crops died and their trees were dying from seawater inundating their land in recent years.
A five-inch sea rise in five years overlays the fact that these people have sustained their culture well, for well over 2000 years. They live unsullied by modernity. (Curiously, quite a few of them received education in American universities and returned home.) Their unlikely utopia revolves around food and shelter and community and millennia of sustainable, pacific tradition.
Now this small population knows that some storm on top of several more inches of sea rise will soon drown their way of life. Steve Goodall, who brought the news to them, did something about it. It is enough to see this film, just to spend a little time with these people. What Goodall did about their circumstance speaks to the one world we all share. "Someplace with a Mountain" tells a story about a modern man and a bellwether culture. It’s even keel and sturdy balance is like the outrigger canoes these people have been building for more than 2000 years.
This is not a somber documentary, but it is a sober one. It isn’t awash with cheap tugs, though it does showcase the smiling nature of the island's kids. This response to a global tipping point doesn't wag a finger. It sets a humbly indicative example of a way forward … to the past, the present and the future.
----- Q and A with the filmmakers who made “Somewhere with a Mountain” -----
Chuck Jaffee asked several contributors to the film the same two questions. Terry Huntington (music), David Nicholson (animation, graphics), and Suzanne Warren (co-writer) all live near the home of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. Steve Goodall, the soul of the filmmaking effort, lives a ways away, but is also a northern Californian. He responded to the same two questions.
Question One: What particularly jumps out from your experience of being part of making this documentary story into a movie?
Terry Huntington: Moving people with my music in my first full length film. Music is one of the final steps in the process. Being able to flavor the stylistic quality, the mood, the hope, the sorrows … it can make or break a film.
David Nicholson: The possibility of having a positive impact with an effect for years to come.
Suzanne Warren: I offered my help as a writer when they rather desperately needed it. Steve liked what I did, so he asked me to help when they got stuck. Steve's utterly dedicated to seeing it through -- helping the islanders. He could have quit. He's not a filmmaker, per se, so that wasn't the passion driving him. It was his feeling of responsibility to those people in danger. He succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in attracting help.
Steve Goodall: I'd listen to people at award ceremonies. They'd say their film took seven years to make, and I'd wonder what were they doing. I had no idea how complicated it was to make a movie. Now that the film has shown on PBS, there's no sitting back and feeling proud. I'm working on the next film. And I won't know that I've really helped these people till I see [them really be helped]. I'm still invigorated. I'm still excited about what's coming next.
Question Two: What stands out for you about the tone that runs through this film?
Terry Huntington: It’s authentic and real. It presents different than a lot of documentaries out there. Climate change is really happening and it's happening really fast; but the film isn’t about playing the blame game. It's about helping these beautiful, self-sustaining people, who don't even use fossil fuels.
David Nicholson: I saw the film in various stages. When Chevy Chase agreed to narrate the film, we were excited but didn't know if it was going to work. It worked beautifully. It helped put the film into focus.
Suzanne Warren: The importance of community in our lives stands out for me. The islanders live in true community, looking out for and helping each other. They reap the benefits of knowing they would never be alone and in need. This culture is what Steve wants to preserve, and it's something we all can learn from. It's interesting that the world community will come together to help these people move and maintain their culture. We are all connected and there can't be too many reminders of that.
Steve Goodall: It's the emotion. The people were able to respond in English, but they had to figure out how to say things in English. When the people expressed themselves in their own language, then, it pours out. When people are attracted to this film, credit the emotion of what these people are confronting. It comes through in the film.