The 5Point Confluence series brings together author and filmmaker in a podcast | News

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Taylor Rees’ academic background in environmental science and anthropology is clear when looking at her work as a filmmaker and artist – she often lets the landscapes she captures determine the aesthetic of any of her shorts. footage, whether it’s Mount Everest or the Kuril Islands in eastern Russia and northeast Japan, and his stories are not predetermined by Rees’ own guesses, but rather by the voices that ‘she goes out of her way to make sure she’s heard, even if those voices aren’t human.

It all started when Rees was a field assistant in Greenland, doing her aforementioned environmental and anthropological work as a graduate student at Yale.

“I guess the first time I really picked up a camera to tell a story, I was working as a field assistant for [a] climatic ecology laboratory in Greenland. You know, scientists from all over the world — Germany, Europe, the United States — are all descending like a swarm of locusts on this country,” Rees recalled during a live podcast recording with Jedidiah Jenkins, himself an author at New York Times hit (“Shake the Sleeping Self” and “Like Streams to the Ocean”) and entrepreneur behind the “Question the Self” podcast.

The Friday afternoon event, held at the Carbondale Recreation Center, was part of the 5Point Adventure Film Festival’s Confluence Series, which features panels, podcasts and workshops throughout the weekend to punctuate screenings of short films.

“At the time – it was early 2000, 2004 – it was one of the most important places to observe how climate change was manifesting and changes in ecosystems,” Rees continued. “I started to see that there was a whole Inuit community that lived there before the scientists came down and obviously stayed after and that was their homeland. And there wasn’t a ton of cross-communication or ongoing collaboration.

This sighting became a defining epiphany for what would become a solid film career for Rees that took her all over the world, working with household names like National Geographic and The New Yorker. The following year, when Rees returned to Greenland, she brought a camera – but the subjects of her talks were the locals who had otherwise been spectators of the environmental work going on in their home country.

“I asked them what it was like to have strangers come in to interpret their landscape and need to have the voice to share it with others,” Rees recalls. “And that’s kind of the beginning of the journey for me. I’m really interested in answering this question: how do we understand what is happening to our environment, to the Earth? …And really, how are these stories shaped and formed and who gathers the information and what does that mean – and how is it disseminated, because that shapes, for example, how we come to understand this going on and how we feel about it and how we act on it.

In order to start answering these questions, Rees said she couldn’t think about it too much. The underlying magic of Rees’ storytelling seems to be her dichotomous approach: she’s the driving force behind the film’s direction while she’s simultaneously happy with anything but walking away from it.

“I’ve been told in the past that, ‘Oh, if you open the door to too many inputs, for example, the story will get lost; you have a really clear vision. And that’s great, I think, especially for really good career documentary makers – and honestly, I don’t consider myself one of them,” Rees said. “I feel like, ‘This is the bac to sand,” and is it a film? is it a photo; is it art; is it a business; is it education?

“I’m still trying to find my place in this sandbox, and I love making sandcastles with people,” she continued. “My passion projects are open and collaborative from start to finish. … You can step back and trust that the storytelling and the purpose and the message that wants to get across and the craft and the style will, like, get through.

Earlier in the recording of the podcast (also recorded by community radio KDNK), Rees spoke to Jenkins about one of her current projects, following Tokitae, or “Toki,” in which the filmmaker touched a new, more difficult angle to get out of the story she was telling.

“I had an experience recently with an orca where I was like ‘Oh, she’s telling the story’ – and there’s a way to film that and show it where people would stop to think, like ‘Well , where is the human trying to interpret this for me’ and start literally watching the actions of the animal and let that be the story,” Rees said.

At 56, Toki is the oldest orca in captivity, taken at age 4 in Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, north of Seattle. Since then, she has lived at the Miami Seaquarium, performing tricks for food every day. But at night, after the crowds had long disappeared, Toki was singing — and when some reporters recorded that chant and had it analyzed, experts discovered something amazing, Rees said.

“It’s a complete imitation of the L-Pod’s song, which the L-Pod sings to connect with each other in the ocean. And so to this day, she calls her family,” she said. declared.

“She remembers her family’s song from 50 years ago?” Jenkins gasped. “Wow.”

Still, Toki followed his trainers’ orders to the delight of the public every day for half a century, and for a week of that time, Rees was there, filming. She said Toki’s routine was exactly the same, day after day, until one day members of the Lummi tribe – the original inhabitants of the northernmost Pacific Northwest – came to visit Toki.

“The intent was…they just wanted to be with her and let her know that there are still people trying to bring her home,” Rees recalled. “They’re using rattles and sending prayers, and all of a sudden I can tell she’s acting totally different…I’ve been watching her all week. She was like swimming in these circles pretty quickly – then the coaches came out and the Katy Perry songs played and [Toki] was like, ‘No.’

“And I was like, ‘Oh, I see you,'” Rees continued.

Last month, as part of an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture, the Miami Seaquarium announced that Toki, along with a companion dolphin named Lii, would spend the rest of their lives without having to perform for their care.

Jenkins didn’t waver in his admiration for Rees, both as a person and as a filmmaker, on Friday.

“Taylor, I have to say you are one of the most egoless people I have ever spoken to, interviewed. Because you are clearly a major player in this space, and yet you come into it with open hands and a sense of curiosity and discovery,” he said. “It’s disarming; it’s inviting; it’s exiting. …You respond with this inviting flow of likes, the mystery of the universe and the invitation to curiosity and that everyone’s path is their own… [When] you love an orca, when you love Greenland… it’s very beautiful.

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