Two kinds of stars will shine at the annual Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Film Festival in the Woods, Aug. 23: the ones in the sky and those in the movies themselves. The film stars include a hermit crab, a man who climbs trees, a hummingbird, a couple who turn garbage into art, and the passenger pigeon, among others.
The pigeon stars in the film "From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction," "a Chicago-area premiere of a public television documentary that Brushwood Center is thrilled to present," Executive Director Sophie Twichell said.
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"It's a compelling film about a beautiful bird driven to extinction in just decades, as well as the threats to species today," she said. "The plan is to show this film on public television in the fall of this year."
Brushwood Center opens at 6 p.m. when guests are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy a performance by Daniel Golden and his students from the Music Institute of Chicago. Guests may join a tour of Brushwood Center's art exhibition, "Avian Spirits," at 7 p.m. The films begin at 7:30 p.m.
"This is a special way for the family to enjoy film in an unusual setting," Brushwood Center program manager John Barrett said. "Any of these films could be watched indoors, but by watching them outside, we are bringing people into nature. The films can be appreciated more beneath the trees of Ryerson Woods."
Barrett helped secure the films presented at the event.
"We tried to strike a balance between documentary and artistic styles, and we tried to have some films that appeal to all ages," he said. "All of the films revolve loosely around the themes of extinction and survival, but many of them celebrate art, life and rebirth."
"One short film kids should enjoy is two minutes long and features a hermit crab trying to find his home," Barrett said. It's aptly called "Homeless." "Another film we hope kids will enjoy is about a man whose passion is climbing trees. The film also raises some profound questions about life that will appeal to adults."
Another movie, "Premier Automne," is an acclaimed, award-winning animated film made in France.
"It's an interesting re-imagining of the cycle of seasons between winter and summer," Barrett said.
One of Twichell's favorites is "Amazing Grace," about a man in Africa who for many years earned a living by making charcoal, but has since rededicated his life to replanting forests.
Families are invited to bring a picnic, a blanket or lawn chairs to watch the films. The evening events are free; a $10 donation is suggested.
The film festival is part of the extinction/survival-themed series of public programs that is being offered by Brushwood Center in 2014. The programs promote a broader understanding of extinction and the struggle of endangered species to survive. Brushwood Center is exploring why extinction happened in the past and why it continues today, as well as celebrating stories of survival. Programs include book talks, art exhibitions, lectures and film screenings running throughout 2014.
Brushwood Center is at 21850 N. Riverwoods Road., Riverwoods. For information, call (847) 968-3343 or visit www.brushwoodcenter.org.