The Beaver Believers
Director: Sarah Koenigsberg
Country of Origin: United States
The Beaver Believers shares the urgent yet whimsical story of an unlikely cadre of activists - a biologist, a hydrologist, a botanist, an ecologist, a psychologist, and a hairdresser - who share a common goal: restoring the North American Beaver, that most industrious, ingenious, furry little bucktoothed engineer, to the watersheds of the American West. The Beaver Believers encourage us to embrace a new paradigm for managing our western lands, one that seeks to partner with the natural world rather than overpower it. As a keystone species, beaver enrich their ecosystems, creating the biodiversity, complexity, and resiliency our watersheds need to absorb the impacts of climate change. Beavers can show us the way and even do much of the work for us, if only we can find the humility to trust in the restorative power of nature and our own ability to play a positive role within it. Shot in 8 western US states, Mexico, and Canada, through desert drought, raging wild fires, spring floods, and the peaceful calm of wetlands, this film will change the way you think about climate change and inspire you to take a bite out of the challenges we face, one stick at a time.
When I set out in search of the story for my first feature-length film, I knew I wanted it to be about climate change, but I didn't want to repeat the same apocalyptic “doom and gloom” narrative that we've all seen before. You know the one, with the depressingly unstoppable disasters, and the melting glaciers and starving polar bears, where we leave the theatre feeling like crap because it's all our fault. That frame of catastrophic narrative is so often overwhelming to the point of being disempowering and debilitating, that it is actually counter-productive to inciting action. I wanted to engage the topic of climate change through a different narrative, to find a story where climate change could be seen (dare I say it?) almost as an opportunity: as a motivating, inspiring impetus to jump into joyful action. And then I stumbled upon beavers.
On the surface, “The Beaver Believers” is all about these remarkable, adorable, little bucktoothed ecosystem engineers – how they are a keystone species, how they repair and expand riparian habitat, how they seem to counter nearly every negative impact of climate change – but at a deeper level, this film is about so much more. It’s about the human spirit, about passionate people striving to make the world more resilient and robust, and shockingly, having a fantastic time as they do so! It’s about realizing we have a place within the natural world, and that we have the capacity to be agents of good. It all boils down to what I call “Thinking Like a Beaver.” When beavers move in to a watershed, they build their dams and ponds to take care of their own needs, but they do it in a way that simultaneously benefits of all of the other creatures around them. We can apply this metaphor to our own lives and think, how can we take care of our needs in a way that simultaneously benefits, rather than detracts from, our community as a whole? How can we take care of ourselves in a way that creates opportunity for others, that promotes more biodiversity, more human diversity, more local economic growth, more sustainability? That is “thinking like a beaver,” and our communities and watersheds would be all the more resilient and robust for our efforts.
As I’ve had the incredible opportunities to share my work with select film festivals over the last couple of months, at every screening I am awed by how profoundly moved the audience is. From the buzz of energy within a packed theatre, and the collective laughter and cheering metered by silent moments of captivated focus; to the surprisingly deep conversations I’ve had with people afterwards; to the floods of emails from folks looking to engage, to connect with local groups to volunteer, to find resources that will assist their efforts on their creek/forest/farm; it is abundantly clear to me that people desperately want to discover and hold on to nuggets of hope – to feel like they can take actions that matter. That is what the movement of climate adaptation, and the story of “The Beaver Believers,” brings to an audience. I would be honored to share my work at your festival, and I thank you for taking the time to consider my project.
Producer: Sarah Koenigsberg
Editors: Sarah Koenigsberg and Chris Cresci
Original Score: Andrew Barkan