Every month, Guernica’s multimedia editor, Mary Wang, selects a new documentary as part of our partnership with Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA). These works were produced by filmmakers around the globe, but are united in their commitment to advancing social justice through compelling narratives and captivating imagery.
A salmon in Alaska makes an unlikely journey along “the Mount Everest of rivers”—the Susitna—as residents consider the costs and benefits of a mega-dam. Watch this gorgeously-shot, deliriously-paced documentary for the way it shows how the river connects the state’s wildlife with a group of its most ferocious and eccentric defenders.
Below is a brief Q&A conducted by SIMA with the movie’s director, Ryan Peterson.
What motivated you to make this film?
In 2013, after eight years in California—the heart of mega-dams which have extirpated salmon from rivers they’re built upon—I moved back to my childhood home of Alaska, at exactly the time when a massive dam had been proposed in a state that has none. I wanted to bring some perspective to a place without the cultural or political context in which to consider such a thing.
Describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.
Every month for two years, (main character) Mike Wood and I would travel 40 miles upriver from his remote home to switch out the memory cards in the time-lapse cameras. In the summer, we’d travel by boat, and in the winter, by snowmobile. It was always an adventure, full of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and light, and Mike’s non-stop uplifting humor.
Share a personal story about your experience making the film.
After becoming friends during the production of The Super Salmon, Mike and Molly Wood and I became business partners too, founding a fisherman-direct, sustainable commercial salmon fishing company on the Susitna River, with the goal of increasing awareness of its overall value by providing food that is freaking delicious.
What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?
Stay informed via regular email updates by signing up at www.susitnarivercoalition.org. They’re incredible—an all volunteer organization that has proved very effective by solidifying respect among all political and other parties in their respective spheres. Or, better yet, donate. As is the way of human nature, now that the dam is not on the horizon, funding is harder to come by without a singular, sexy thing to fight against. Meanwhile, the most important work of all—protecting the river forever—is just beginning.
SIMA is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt arts organization. It exists to advance global awareness, social justice, human rights, and education by supporting filmmakers on the front-lines of social change. SIMA started as the first and only international media competition honoring achievements in the creative, human rights, and humanitarian fields. Today, SIMA is the most renowned global curator in the social impact space, serving independent film, academic, and global social justice industries around the world. The organization now consists of several programs, including SIMA Classroom, SIMA RAMA, and SIMAx, which all have the purpose of effecting change through social impact cinema.