A ‘wow’ moment at the 5Point Festival

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” Every event, at least every good one, has a “wow” moment. The “wow” moment at the 5Point Film Festival, at least on Saturday, was a film called “Red Gold.”

The film shares an engrossing and troubling story of how a proposed copper and gold mine could affect one of the greatest fisheries remaining in the world for sockeye salmon. Directors Ben Knight and Travis Rummel did a superb job of storytelling while showing how important salmon are to the lives of natives as well as commercial and sport fisher men. Their way of life is threatened by the mine planned at the head of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers in Bris tol Bay, Alaska.

The film was one of the highlights of Saturday’s portion of the festival, which ran Thursday through Sunday in Carbondale.

The documentary film doesn’t come across as just another thinly disguised excuse for corporate-bashing. The good ol’ boys engaged in commercial fishing don’t begrudge any company that creates jobs and provides vital materials, but they are rightfully perplexed about why the state would consider allowing one venture, mining, to destroy another, fishing. The film also demonstrates how the native Alaskans’ lives totally revolve around salmon, showing a tough old matriarch in her 70s or 80s leading a family’s efforts to capitalize on the salmon runs by catching the fish, gutting and cleaning them, then smoking the meat to provide the staple for the family’s diet for the next several months.

The mining men are given ample time to explain their views ” but they just supply the rope to hang themselves. Their claims that the mine can co-exist with one of the last great fisheries on the planet rings hollow.

The story aside, the cinematography alone makes “Red Gold” worth seeing. It is 54 minutes of sheer, stunning beauty. When the camera follows sport-fishing guides through the backwaters of Bristol Bay you understand their passion for what they do without hearing their words. The wild and scenic shots sprinkled throughout the film, many featuring grizzly bears feasting on fat salmon, are wonderful. But it is the shots of the normal folks going about their business in their stunning environment that is the award winner.