While rummaging through our shelves upon shelves of archaic VHS and beta tapes, I fell upon the jewels of the 90s – the winners of the Grand Teton Award. I wish I could say I watched them all for you, but VHS tapes are officially living in the land before time! I have compiled a list of these winning films and a little synopsis with each.
1991 – Here Be Dragons (National Geographic)
Filmed along Africa’s Grumeti River in Tanzania, Here Be Dragons chronicles the lives of the last surviving link to the dinosaur age – crocodiles. Both the cinematography and its subject matter are compelling, whether the “dragons” are using their famously powerful jaws to crush wildlife or tenderly carry their young. This film broke ITV viewing records with an audience figure of over 11 million.
1993 – Eternal Enemies (National Geographic)
Bringing The Lion King to life, Eternal Enemies examines the intense rivalry between African lions and spotted hyenas. The story line dispels myths about the “king of beasts” and the “foolish, scavenging hyena.” Producers Dereck and Beverly Joubert have lived and worked in the Savuti area of northern Botswana for ten years. The animals, accustomed to their presence, allowed the couple to capture their footage, much of it shot at night. On a side note, the Jouberts have submitted a film for the 2013 Wildlife Film Festival as well! It is an amazing thing to have producer’s support from the Festival inception.
1995 – Life in the Freezer: The Big Freeze (BBC)
David Attenborough braves mountainous seas, blizzards, and temperatures of minus 60 degrees as he journeys from the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia to the South Pole, to uncover the secrets of the Antarctic as part of the series Life in the Freezer.
1997 – Natural World: People of the Sea (BBC)
Another BBC Series program walks away with the Grand Teton Award for People of the Sea. This program tells the story of Newfoundland from a native’s point of view – exploring the history, wildlife, and the modern day dangers of technology and globalization threatening Newfoundlanders’ way of life.
1999 – Vision Man (Swedish Film Institute)
Utuniarsuak Avike is an 87-year-old native Inuit hunter in northwest Greenland who has lived through the transition of this peoples’ 4000-year-old culture into a Western equivalent. Now confined to a small apartment, Avike tells of the life that lies behind him: fishing, dogsledding, coexisting with wolves and walruses and the ritual religious hunting of the polar bear. Not only does this vision man share his well-spent life but he also sheds light on a culture steadily eroding in this changing world.
2001 – Mzima: Haunt of the Riverhorse (National Geographic)
The power couple, Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone, once again took home the Grand Teton Award! They were also the first producers to ever win the award for their film Here Be Dragons (1991). The couple spent two years camped with their young children to document the remarkable way in which a family of hippos brings life to crystal-clear African spring. Using cutting-edge diving techniques and developing their own underwater camera system – they took their lenses into the mouth of hippos and crocodiles to document revelatory behavior – new even to science. The result is a film that reveals the intricate pyramid of life that a hippo school supports, and the astonishing and eventually shocking behavior that is hidden beneath the calm surface of Mzima spring.
2003 – Cultured Ape (Scorer Associates – UK)
Primatologist Frans de Waal claims that apes share with us the most precious jewel in our evolutionary crown: culture. This 60-minute film explores the remarkable depth of similarity between ourselves and our nearest relatives – apes.
2005 – Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (Katahdin Productions – L.A.)
Watch clips here
From Alaska to Maine, Montana to New Mexico, Native American activists are fighting the “New Indian Wars” to both preserve their sovereignty and protect Indian lands against disastrous environmental hazards. Nearly all of the Indian nations sit on land threatened by toxic waste, strip mining, oil drilling and nuclear contamination. At a time when 30 years of environmental law is being dismantled, Native Americans are organizing to fight corporations and government.
2007 – Galapagos: Born of Fire (BBC)
This opening episode travels with the islands through the fascinating stages of their lives, and reveals how creatures have found the most enterprising ways to get to grips with the restless Pacific outpost. Witness the dramatic eruption of the largest of all the Galapagos volcanoes, Sierra Negra, blowing smoke and ash seven miles in to the sky; Galapagos giant tortoises, the largest on Earth, being groomed by Darwin’s finches; and the magical courtship display of the waved albatross.
2009 – Green (Tawak, Paris)
Her name is Green, she is alone in a world that doesn’t belong to her. She is a female orangutan, victim of deforestation and resource exploitation. This film is an emotional journey with Green’s final days. It is a visual ride presenting the devastating impacts of logging and land clearing for palm oil plantations, the choking haze created by rainforest fires and the tragic end of rainforest biodiversity. We watch the effects of consumerism and are faced with our personal accountability in the loss of the world’s rainforest treasures.
2011 – Broken Tail (Crossing the Line Films, Ireland)
Broken Tail was the most flamboyant tiger cub Colin Stafford-Johnson had ever seen during many years spent filming India’s wild tigers. And then the cub went on the run, leaving his sanctuary, surviving for almost a year where many said it was impossible in the unprotected badlands of rural Rajasthan. Tracking his extraordinary journey, Colin and his soundman, Salim, piece together Broken Tail’s final days, and through his story, uncover stark truths about India’s last wild tigers.
In summary, the Grand Teton Best of Festival Award winners have compelling story lines that explore the complex issues that develop between people and the natural world – uncovering the unflattering side of both of these worlds. National Geographic has taken home three Grand Teton Awards and BBC has taken home two. But among the last five festivals, four of the Grand Teton Award winners have gone to independent production companies, which is very impressive especially when they are running up against veteran, power companies such as National Geographic.
Post what film you think should enter the festival and take home the Grand Teton Award.