A man in an orange jacket sits on a tight rope with his hands outstretched. Huge snowy mountains and blue water loom below the high wire.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival breaks records

A record number of attendees and funds raised for the Outdoor Education Center

Since 1994 the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center has been connecting students from Los Angeles to the source of their water. Photo by of Miranda Norlin.

We’re still buzzing with excitement after our first entirely virtual Wild & Scenic Film Festival, a fundraiser for the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center (OEC). In total, more than 600 people across 30 states attended the event, with nearly 300 people tuning in live on March 11. In total, the festival raised nearly $12,000 for the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center, which will be a big boost to the program this year. The funds raised will help groups visit the OEC through transportation grants and also support some exciting new OEC renovations.

For those who watched the event live, there was a chat box with Committee staff where people shared their favorite memories of Mono Lake as well as their reactions to the evening’s films, which was a fun way to connect with familiar faces and new supporters. The films were available on demand for five days following the live event, and hundreds of people also took advantage of this option.

For this year’s festival, we curated eight short films on hiking, biking, paddling, surfing, conservation, community, and wild places. Mono Lake Committee staff also be made special appearances throughout the evening between films, and during intermission we shared Robbie’s signature cocktail recipes and raffled off a dozen prizes from a number of generous sponsors, including REI, Peak Design, and Klean Kanteen.

Favorite films of the festival

After the event, we sent out a survey to attendees and asked which short film was their favorite. While every film was someone’s favorite, three films really stood out this year—read more about them below.

A Northern Light

A man up to his waist in brown water pulls a canoe behind hind through a narrow creek surrounded by tall grass.

“A Northern Light” was the audience’s third favorite film of the festival. In this short, Riverhorse Nakadate makes his way by canoe through endless miles of wilderness to celebrate the stunning and surreal lakes and forests, illuminate and juxtapose the serious and perilous threats at hand, and to show a deep poetic reverence to the last remaining places of incomparable beauty. One viewer wrote: “Extraordinary filmmaking and unique story qualities inspire activism and protection of nature.” Many viewers were transfixed by Riverhorse’s incredible story, calling the film “dazzling,” “informative yet meditative,” “remarkable,” and “joyous.”

Pedal Through

Three women on bikes and wearing backpacks and helmets laugh and smile.

“Pedal Through” was the audience’s second favorite film of the festival, just one vote shy of the top spot. “Pedal Through” follows Analise Cleopatra when she decides to plan a week-long mountain biking adventure with an all black female team. With raw authenticity, Analise shares all the intimate foibles, fear, fun, and beauty of discovering her place in the outdoors as she leans into uncertainty, accepts support, and trusts herself on this wild ride. Viewers described the film as “empowering,” “relatable and inspiring,” and “courageous.” This film deeply resonated with many. One person wrote: “Loved that the people featured were vulnerable and shared their experiences of getting into bike packing which often is not highlighted. I feel like we see a lot of people crushing their sports, but not necessarily how they got there. It lets the viewer know, hey I could try that too.” Another wrote, “I loved the gutsy vulnerability of this story and it is not a story we usually hear.”


A veterinarian sitting across from a medical table from a young girl. The vet holds a stethoscope to a large brown bird with yellow claws.

“Tabira” was the audience favorite, earning the most votes of any of the eight films. “Tabira” tells the story of a family of veterinarians who adopted a chick that nobody wanted. The unexpected arrival of a raptor ends up becoming a daughter and a high-flying sister, changing their lives forever. One viewer wrote how they loved “the photography which showed the beauty of the love and connection between the doctor, his daughter and Tabira.” Another festival goer said, “It is very personal to me, actually I grew up in Spain in that land and I deeply connected with the story and my native language, Spanish.” Others enjoyed the film because it was “so unexpected,” “beautiful,” and “heartfelt.”

Other favorite films

Mono Lake Committee staff introduced many of the films throughout the evening.

In our post-event survey, many wrote how difficult it was to pick just one favorite film. On “Venture Out” one person wrote, “Finding community in the outdoors is so wonderful. I enjoyed the way this film portrayed the sense of community, togetherness, and purpose for a group of trans people exploring the outdoors.” Regarding “Pathfinder,” one person remarked how it “showed the extraordinary skill, stamina, dedication, and sense of adventure in the outdoors for JOY.” Many were also touched by District 15: “Learned of an issue I wasn’t previously aware of. Inspiring to see young people making a difference in their community!” On “Dani Burt,” one attendee wrote that the film was “empowering and enlightening, boundary breaking and awesome.”

Thank you

Thank you so much for making this year’s event such a wild success. We can hardly wait to begin planning for next year’s event. If you have any additional feedback about the event this year, questions about the film festival, or if you have an idea for next year, feel free to send me an email or call (760) 647-6595.