Local filmmakers hope to inspire audiences abroad and close to home | SteamboatToday.com

Local filmmakers hope to inspire audiences abroad and close to home

Crew members rescue a stuck raft on Bhutan’s Drangme River during the filming of "Power of the River."





Crew members rescue a stuck raft on Bhutan's Drangme River during the filming of “Power of the River.”

— On Thursday, the Yampa River Festival Kick Off Party will commence at 6:30 p.m. at the Chief Theater with the Steamboat Springs premiere of two films created by local filmmakers.

The first, "River of Sorrows" will have its screening at 6:30 p.m. Created by the local production company Rig To Flip, Ben Saheb, Cody Perry and Jules Poma sought to document the plight of Colorado's drought-stricken Dolores River, which was dammed in the late 1980s to form the McPhee Reservoir. The movie’s run-time is 44 minutes.

At 7:30 p.m., "Power of the River: Expedition to the Heart of Water in Bhutan" will premiere. The film was created by Greg Hamilton, former producer for Warren Miller Entertainment, and documents his crew's adventure to an unexplored river in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The film recently won Best Colorado Feature at the DocuWest Film Festival 2016 in Denver, and Robert Redford has called it, “A cinematic adventure into the heart of wilderness." The film runs 73 minutes.

While both films differ in terms of perspective, their shared main message is simple: Water conservation and preservation for future generations is vital.

"We need to preserve these areas for the future," said Dave McCoy, featured angler in the "Power of the River" and fly fishing conservationist. "In general, the human race needs to look past the ends of our noses to look at what we are doing currently to ensure our kids and their kids have something akin to what we have here, currently. Otherwise, they will inherit an entirely different planet."

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"River of Sorrows"

Igniting conversation about the Dolores River, its conflicts and stakeholders, the Rig to Flip crew was granted an opportunity from the Dolores River Boating Advocates to explore the "River of Sorrow" story in July 2014, based on a $12,000 grant DRBA received from Patagonia.

One of the challenges the crew faced during production was not having the opportunity to raft the river due to extremely low water and a deadline for the film. This year, however, they had an opportunity to experience it.

"I can't describe the place at this moment," Perry said Wednesday. "I just got off of it, and to go see the actual river, I'm astonished by how undervalued and unknown it is. I was astonished at what is down there. Because there was no water in the river, there were no campsites and no recreation resources. We weren't prepared for how it would look when we went there."

Discovering themes of livelihood dependent on the Dolores River and the tensions between stakeholders, the Rig to Flip crew hopes "River of Sorrows" will help raise river conservation awareness.

"We want people to appreciate the Yampa River, especially with this weekend's River Fest," Saheb said. "We hope they can learn about this story and feel lucky to have such a great, un-dammed river, because the Dolores is such a sad story. We are blessed to have such a pristine watershed like the Yampa."

"Power of the River"

A poignant piece of culture and an unflinching look at the hardships that come with an expedition into the unknown, "Power of the River" is a film that chronicles the crew’s 25-day expedition, including a nine-day float trip and first-ever fishing access on the unexplored Drangme Chhu River in Bhutan.

It required two and a half years of preparation, research and contacting the royal family of Bhutan to acquire the river and film permits for the expedition, Hamilton said. Though it had been rafted and kayaked a few times, the film crew was the first group to acquire legal fishing access of the Drangme River.

The crew included world-renowned fly fishers Bryant Dunn, Misty Dhillon, Jean Andre Corpuz and McCoy, along with Karma Tshering, the group's river guide and Bhutanese wilderness expert. The production crew consisted of Hamilton as writer, director and producer, and Matthew Whalen, Andy Danylchuk, Ph.D, Jocelyne Chaput, Stefan Smulovitz and Tshering "Paco" Penjore.

"There's that sense of adventure and true passion that comes through on camera," Hamilton said. "When we would do interviews on the side of the river with the guides, they talk about how the love for the river is in their veins, and when they meet people who are like-minded, there's a family-like connection. When your affection for nature aligns with people in other countries who have a different way of life and thinking, then I think we are all at the same table."

The thing that influenced Hamiliton to become involved with the expedition was Bhutan's commitment to protect 60 percent of its national forest, three times more than any other country in the world.

"Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Dragon King, recognized the natural resources they have there that were more valuable pristine and wild than logged, mined or dammed," Hamilton said. "So, they made this commitment before they even knew how to deliver on it."

The adventure took the team from rafting Class V rapids — with all equipment intact — to fishing the endangered golden mahseer, a species found only in Bhutan and northern India.

"It's a really surreal feeling to be in a position where you realize few humans have set eyes on something," McCoy said.

"The difference between this and rivers like the Arkansas, the Colorado, and the Grand Canyon, is that people have been running those rivers for centuries and documenting them," Hamilton said. "Every rapid has a name, everyone knows how many cubic feet per second it’s running and how to hit certain holes, and what's safe or not. This was truly an adventure into the unknown."

The event is free with a $10 suggested donation that benefits the local river nonprofit, Friends of the Yampa.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

If You Go…

What: River Fest Kickoff Party

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 2

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

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