As we sat down for a Q&A with director Mark Titus in late July 2020 to discuss The Wild, the threats to Bristol Bay’s environment, bio-diversity and culture, which his film depicts as “a race against time,” appear to be accelerating under the current industry-friendly administration, as detailed in this recent NY Times piece. The film tracks efforts to block potentially catastrophic mining operations that have gained momentum under the Trump administration, which has dismantled EPA safeguards. Those safeguards have been protecting Bristol Bay, a “wild place that is the last of its kind on earth,” the keystone species of salmon that run in the area, and the people who have made their life in the area, including commercial, sustainable fishers and regional tribes. Unsurprisingly, the mining operation would counter a consortium of native tribe’s collective claim to the land and subsurface rights, and threatens both the survival of a keystone species of sockeye salmon and a “wild place that is the last of its kind on earth.” The threats detailed in the film have been ratcheted up and moved forward with the recent release of an Army Corps of Engineers Study that minimizes the potential damaging impacts of turning two of the Bay’s watersheds into open copper mines.
A follow-up to the 2014 film, The Breach, The Wild depicts the conflict over Bristol Bay as a battle for Alaska’s soul that mirrors the filmmaker’s own struggle to reclaim himself from addiction. In doing so, it raises a series of larger questions about human being’s relationships to the natural environment, our perception of ourselves as somehow separated from the natural world and the dire need to change course if we are going to avert the worst impacts of climate change. In our exclusive sit-down with Titus, he elaborates on these vitally important connections, which may help us find a path forward by understanding ourselves and our connection with the world.
For more on this complex and vitally important issue, look for SDFF co-Director Jean McGlothlin’s interview with Mark Titus, which will begin streaming for free on August 9, as an SDFF Exclusive. Before watching the film, we suggest watching Titus’s visually stunning and emotionally striking film The Wild, a part of the Docs Make House Calls Environmental Film Program, which also includes L’eau Est La Vie: From Standing Rock To The Swamp (Sam Vinal, 2019), and Eye of the Pangolin (Bruce Young, 2019), featuring another SDFF exclusive interview with filmmaker Bruce Young.