The NatureTrack Film Festival (NTFF) Los Olivos, a nature-focused film festival located between L.A. and San Francisco, recently closed its submissions and selected films from around the world for its second annual event slated for March 22–24.

The NTFF (www.naturetrackfilmfestival.org) called for long and short form submissions in the categories of Adventure, Animation, Biography, Conservation, Kids Connecting With Nature, Scenic, Student, Music Video (short only) and a special genre called Outdoors & Out of Bounds. 

Sue Eisaguirre, founder and director of NTFF, said, “Like last year the selection process was both thrilling and difficult, due to the hundreds of incredible entries we had to choose from. In fact, we had to extend our notification deadline to fully evaluate the many worthy submissions we received.

"The 50-plus films we finally selected will definitely ignite a passion for nature in our audiences and show film-goers things they’ve never seen before. One that stands out is "Forbidden Zone: Wildlife" on the Battlefield submitted by Director Szabolcs Mosonyi, which shows the stubborn survival of nature on a Hungarian battlefield that has been in continuous use for military exercises since the late 1800s and is now an active NATO training site. This is only one of dozens that took our breath away as we viewed one extraordinary film after another.”

NatureTrack Film Festival selections for 2019 include:

"The Human Element" from noted National Geographic photographer James Balog and director Matthew Testa. The “human element” in the film is the “fifth element” to the four of earth, fire, water and air and examines the way humans impact the elements and vice versa. The fire section of the film takes a hard look at one of California’s recent mega-fires.

"The Malaysian Snake Guardian," by director Manuel Coronado Acevedo, gets us uncomfortably close to both the harmless and the deadly snakes on the Malaysian archipelago of Langkawi. If you’ve ever wanted to see someone pet a venomous King Cobra this is your chance. This will be the US premiere of The Malaysian Snake Guardian.

"No Man’s Land: Expedition Antarctica" is the latest heart pounding film from returning German director Matthias Mayr who thrilled NTFF audiences last year with his death-defying adventures in The White Maze. Expect a similar edge of your seat experience!

At the opposite pole is "Into the Arctic 3: The Last Chapter," which follows famed Canadian plein-air painter Cory Trepanier as he puts brush to canvas to capture the sweeping ice-scapes and shocking beauty of the Arctic in an unprecedented collection of original northern oil paintings. Cory also serves as director of this stirring feature.

"Natural Flow" by local Santa Ynez Valley teenager and champion soccer freestyler, Boston Fitzpatrick, is a fascinating look at the way being out in nature relaxes and informs the “natural flow” required to pull off the amazing stunts Boston accomplishes with a soccer ball.

The NatureTrack Film Festival will also feature student-made films like "Our Last Trash" from the Green Screen program at UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center. In this film, UCSB student film director Joanne Yue takes a look at plastic pollution and how some people are redefining trash through a “zero waste” lifestyle. In 2018 the NTFF established a cornerstone partnership with faculty and students in the Environmental Film Studies Department at UCSB to support young filmmakers of the future, and to share the excellent environmental cinema projects emerging from this world-class university right here in our “backyard.”

The concept of a Santa Barbara County based film festival dedicated to the outdoors and situated in the stunning natural setting of the Santa Ynez Valley, originated with NTFF founder and director Sue Eisaguirre who conceived the idea for a local nature film festival as an extension of the non-profit NatureTrack Foundation that she started in 2011. NatureTrack introduces school children to outdoor spaces from the seashore to the inland oak woodlands of Santa Barbara County by providing cost-free outdoor field trips, utilizing local trails and beaches throughout the county. 

Juried awards will be determined by a panel of film industry professionals, outdoor guides and teachers, according to Eisaguirre. Awards will be given for: Best Student Film, Best in Category, Best Depiction of Children Connecting to Nature – the “Dan Conaway Award,” and overall Best in Festival. There will also be an Audience Favorite award.

All category winners will receive a custom award designed by Kristen Cramer of Global Eye Art Collective www.geartco.com.

The NatureTrack Film Festival kicks off on Friday, March 22 with an al fresco opening reception in the courtyard of St. Mark’s In-the-Valley Church prior to screenings that day and evening. A full slate of films will be offered on Saturday, and the festival will conclude on Sunday with a half day of programming and a closing reception. Films will screen at three venues in Los Olivos: the Santa Ynez Valley Grange, the Gates Foss Community Center at Los Olivos School and St. Mark’s in-The-Valley Church.

Filmmaker panels, Q&As and “Meet & Greets” are all in the mix for the second annual NatureTrack Film Festival, along with special bonus and repeat screenings of select films. NatureTrack will also offer docent-led hikes for those wishing to take advantage of the abundant natural beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley for a more immersive outdoor experience.

The NatureTrack Film Festival sponsors can be viewed at www.naturetrackfilmfestival.org. To become a NatureTrack Film Festival sponsor or advertiser, contact Sue Eisaguirre sue@NatureTrackFilmFestival.org.

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This report was compiled by Lisa André. You can reach her at landre@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @LAndréSYVNews