Film and TV

The 5 Films You Should See at This Year’s EarthXFilm Festival

Co-director and explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the famed filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, brings the breathtaking spectacle of the Earth's oceans to the big screen with his documentary Wonders of the Sea 3D that's screening at this year's EarthXFilm Festival.
Co-director and explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the famed filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, brings the breathtaking spectacle of the Earth's oceans to the big screen with his documentary Wonders of the Sea 3D that's screening at this year's EarthXFilm Festival. Fathom Entertainment/3D Entertainment Films

You've always wanted to learn more about the natural world and witness some of the most beautiful parts of our environment but it's hard to find the time and even if you find a diving suit in your size, it makes you feel like five liters of meat in a four-liter sausage casing.

This year's EarthXFilm Festival has a number of new feature films and documentaries that explore efforts to preserve and protect our threatened environment and capture some of the most beautiful parts of the natural world. EarthXFilm has screenings for 16 feature films, 40 short films and more than 40 immersive and virtual entertainment experiences at venues around the Dallas area such as the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Alamo Drafthouse Cedars and Fair Park. If you're having trouble deciding which to make time to see, here are five must-see screenings.

Wonders of the Sea 3D (3 p.m. Saturday at the Perot Museum)
Acclaimed filmmaker and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau captured some of the most breathtaking images of the ocean world ever committed to film. He also loved sharing his adventures with his family — including his young son Jean-Michel, who has carried on his father's footsteps and continues documenting the state of the Earth's underwater habitats with beautiful films including his latest 3D experience Wonders of the Sea 3D.

Jean-Michel and his camera crew explore coral reefs and interesting species of sea life such as sea turtles, ocean spiders and hammerhead sharks in this film narrated by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wonders of the Sea isn't just about making your jaw drop. Schwarzenegger says in the trailer that the film delivers a message: "Let's keep our ocean clean and let's keep our world clean."

Ghost Fleet (4:45 p.m. Saturday at the Hall of State Theater at Fair Park)
Thailand provides a large portion of the world's seafood, but a dark layer rests underneath it. Directors Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron shine a light on this dark side with their documentary Ghost Fleet.

The film follows human rights activists Patima Tungpuchayakui as she documents and attempts to rescue people who have been kidnapped by human traffickers and sold into a slave trade that fuels a large portion of Thailand's seafood and fishery industries. The film also tells the stories of a former slave of the industry who escaped and activists' attempts to save thousands of kidnapped people from an industry that fails to recognize them. It's a tragic story that reaches to almost every corner of and major environmental issue on the globe. Many countries may have never heard of these injustices without these activists' and filmmakers' work.

"This one has an interesting look at an unexpected result of climate change and global warming," says EarthXFilm publicist John Wildman. "As the fish population is dramatically reduced, fishing in Thailand has led to human slavery. There is also a VR component to this one adding to the potential to really learn about what is going on there."

The River and the Wall (7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Perot Museum, 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hall of State Theater)
President Donald Trump's insistence on building a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States has angered a lot of people for a lot of reasons. It's not only a major concern for America's immigration policies and effects, but it also carries some dire concerns about the animal life and natural sights along the 1,200-mile stretch of varying terrains.

Director Ben Masters traveled from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico along the America-Mexico border on mountain bikes, canoes and even horseback to explore the sights of these great lands threatened by the massive construction proposal, and he brought a camera crew with him. The River and the Wall aims to start a new dialogue about this very controversial issue from a perspective that hasn't been discussed much by either those who oppose or support the wall, but Masters discusses it without looking through the nonsensical lens of political partisanship.

"This hits the political debate about the ramifications of building the wall right square in the non-political solar plexus," Wildman says.

Wildland (4:30 p.m. Saturday at The Women's Building in Fair Park)
Great documentary filmmakers take some serious risks to capture their subjects on film, sometimes even at the expense of their own physical well-being. Directors Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson followed some brave men and women fighting one of the deadliest environmental catastrophes brought on by a rising global climate and mankind's inability — and even refusal — to slow it.

The film follows a single crew of frontline firefighters battling a massive wave of rolling wildfires in Southern California and tells their stories as they traverse the squelching heat and barren terrains affected by the fires. The filmmakers chose to focus on the stories and struggles of these individual men and how the dangerous jobs of fighting a massive wildlife affects their dreams, hopes and lives and "gives a different insight when we watch the news headlines about forest fires," Wildman says.

click to enlarge SCYTHIA FILMS
Scythia Films
Youth Unstoppable (8:30 p.m. Tuesday at UTD, 12:15 p.m. Sunday at The Women's Building)
Every political issue, especially environmental ones, depend on the vibrant and unwavering support of the nation's youth. One place America's youth have made their voice heard the loudest is on climate change. Director and environmental advocate Slater Jewell-Kemker tells the story of these young activists who are dedicating one of the most important times of their lives to one of the most important issues of our time in Youth Unstoppable: My Decade in the Youth Climate Movement.

Jewell-Kemker chronicled eight years of her work to support and inspire young environmental activists to keep up the fight for a better future through major climate conferences, United Nations summits and many public rallies and protests. Wildman says this movie, "Kind of crystallizes why we're doing this thing." 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.