Film festival is definitely for the birds - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Film festival is definitely for the birds

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Posted: Sunday, June 7, 2009 3:28 pm | Updated: 3:01 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The annual Audubon Arizona Nature Film Festival returns Wednesday to Scottsdale, and proceeds from the screening go straight to the local chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Next time you head out for dinner and a movie, the money you spend on tickets, food and snacks could make a difference for some of Arizona's most imperiled birds and their habitats.

The annual Audubon Arizona Nature Film Festival returns Wednesday to Scottsdale, and proceeds from the screening and accompanying "picnic supper" go straight to the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, the 104-year-old conservation group that works to protect wildlife and their habitats.

"All year long, we're looking for just the right film, working closely with Harkins and a contact we have in Hollywood. We watch probably 20 films, looking for just the right combination," says Sam Campana, executive director of Audubon Arizona.

Making the cut this year are "Why Birds Sing," a tongue-in-cheek British documentary in which a musician-philosopher tries to convince bird experts that birds chirp for the joy of it, and "Darwin's Natural Heir," a 2008 film about the life and work of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning naturalist and biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson. The elderly Wilson will deliver a special pre-recorded message to the audience at the screening.

"'Why Birds Sing' is a riot - slap-your-thigh, laugh-out-loud funny," says Campana. "We like to have one funny movie, and then one that's more thoughtful, with some real content to it. We usually lose about a third of our audience for the second film - it's late, or they brought kids, or they came just to support us and are on their way - but I think the story of E.O. Wilson might actually be a bigger draw this time around. We're thrilled to be able to show it."

In the past, the festival has screened the crowd-pleasing films "Pale Male," about a wild red-tailed hawk living in New York City; "Winged Migration" and "March of the Penguins."

"We have always sold out this event or almost sold it out," says Campana. "It attracts a whole spectrum of people - Audubon members and people who want to support Audubon but can't or don't care to go out birding. Or people with kids who understand how important it is to learn about and protect the environment."

A ticket to the festival includes the two movies; an in-theater dinner of sandwiches, chips and cookies; and a ticket for a free drink and popcorn at the Harkins concession counter. During the meal, guests can bid on about 100 items in a silent auction. Prizes include an overnight stay at the Four Seasons, Toby Keith concert tickets and solar-powered landscape decor items.

Money raised will go to Arizona Audubon, which conducts conservation and research efforts in the field and provides educational programming for youngsters.

"Audubon is bigger in Arizona than most people think. We have about 10,000 members here - close to half in Maricopa County and a third in Tucson and the rest spread throughout the state," says Campana. "We're really about nature education, and this is a fun, easy way to come see what it's all about."

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