Recapturing the momentum

Boulder ENOFF returns to the Dairy Arts Center

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Bleecker Street Media

The Boulder Environment / Nature / Outdoors Film Festival (Boulder ENOFF) returns to the Dairy Arts Center July 15-18 for an in-person festival. “Finally,” Boulder ENOFF director Richard Paradise says with relief.

“We had a really great launch in 2019,” Paradise says. “But last year, of course, with COVID going on, with the Dairy Arts Center closed, we had to pivot to a virtual festival.”

And it looked promising, at the time. When we last spoke with Paradise in 2020, the shift from in-person to virtual presented many opportunities: more filmmaker Q&As via Zoom, more availability for people to see the movies, more ability to take programming risks. But as Paradise and practically every other festival and art-house cinema programmer found out, virtual events don’t engender the same level of enthusiasm and participation as live events do.

“But, you know, with things changing rapidly and with COVID restrictions coming down and the Dairy Arts Center open again for in-person events, we’re hopeful we can recapture some of that momentum,” Paradise says.

Things will be different. There will only be one movie per night, and seating inside the Dairy’s Gordon Gamm Theater will be restricted: A small price to pay for the pleasure of seeing movies on a big screen with plenty of conversation. And that’s bound to happen after you see Boulder ENOFF’s closing night film, The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52.

Some background: In 1989, scientists recorded a whale singing at 52 hertz — the average is 20Hz — and deduced that the whale was alone (no other whale was responding at that frequency) and was either the last or the first of his kind. Dubbed 52, the tale of the lonely whale caught fire 15 years later and grabbed the attention of filmmaker Joshua Zeman. Zeman tasked himself to find 52 and see if he truly was alone. The scientists scoffed. Trying to find one specific whale in the Pacific Ocean is the proverbial needle in a haystack. Zeman was not deterred.

You don’t have to strain to see parallels between Captain Ahab hunting for his white whale and Zeman searching for 52, but that’s kind of the point. The relationship between humans and whales is unique and messy, and exploring that history is what makes The Loneliest Whale sing.

In addition to The Loneliest Whale, Boulder ENOFF will screen about a dozen shorts on July 17; 8 Billion Angels on July 16; and Super Frenchie on July 15 — all shows start at 7:30 p.m. 

Paradise has also retained the virtual component from last year’s festival. Beginning July 15, there’ll be several shorts and three features to choose from, including Bear-Like, “a great nature documentary about a guy who goes to the Alaskan wilderness and lives among brown and grizzly bears,” Paradise says. “It’s an amazing film.”

Last year, Paradise called Boulder ENOFF’s all-virtual festival a “gap year … a bridge to next year.” 2021 is still a transitional year, so Paradise is already looking forward to 2022.

“We will carry forward and have a good festival with what we have going for us this year,” Paradise says. “And then be back next year with more of a full festival.”