MEET THE FILMMAKER
STEPHEN OLSSON, EARTH WISDOM FOR A WORLD IN CRISIS
Anyone who has lived in or visited the Bay Area is familiar with Mount Tamalpais, the highest peak in the surrounding hills and an anchoring viewpoint throughout Marin. But unless you’ve climbed the 2,500 foot peak, you might not know that at the top of the Temelpa Trail is a monument to Sitting Bull, the legendary Hunkpapa Lakota holy man who led a years-long resistance against United States’ policies.
The beginning of Stephen Olsson’s documentary, Earth Wisdom for a World in Crisis – an installment in the Global Spirit series – traces the steps up to this spiritual place. Olsson, who grew up in San Francisco and attended San Francisco State for anthropology and film, knows the area well. After graduating he began travelling overseas and worked on media projects in Europe, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Russia, among others.
As well as founding a media center in Afghanistan to document the Soviet– Afghan war, he also produced School Colors at Berkeley High School, a documentary exploring the ramifications of Brown v Board of Education on students.
“People who grew up in a cosmopolitan city have an urban fluency that, if it’s a multi racial city, have a certain [adaptability] in finding other societies,” Olsson said. “In that sense San Francisco was a great place and I grew up at a great time.”
Earth Wisdom for A World In Crisis takes both a local and universal approach, attempting to understand earth consciousness and the ways in which much of society has deviated away from a more symbiotic relationship with the natural world. Centered on the United Nations summit in NYC, the episode draws from footage of the Standing Rock Reservation resistance and includes conversations with various indigenous leaders from around the world. While some global leaders combat global warming and others refute its very existence, these indigenous leaders offer a more holistic approach to understanding humanity’s relationship with nature.
“Earth wisdom comes from earth consciousness,” Olsson explained. “People lack a sense of ceremony and connection with the earth. The primal elements of earth, sky and water include great spirit, however people may define that.”
While someone living in a city might sometimes feel disconnected from nature and experience feelings of loneliness or unhappiness, Olsson explains that other people, such as the Native American leaders at Standing Rock, have cultivated “a sense of self [that] is integrated with nature.” Indigenous leaders “are our teachers on every continent, because we truly did lose something.”
It can be hard to feel in tune with nature given the daily grind of work, city life and other obligations. But even if you can’t get to the woods to unwind, Olsson suggests that by integrating the indigenous leaders’ messages into our lives, we can move towards a healthier and more nurturing relationship with the earth.”
And, of course, a great way to learn more about these perspectives is by watching the film and educating yourself on issues such as Standing Rock. “Filmmaking has the power to take you someplace you’ve never been before,” Olsson said. “Film has its own magic and when things align it’s beautiful. Those are the moments you live for.”
Don’t miss “Earth Wisdom For A World In Crisis,” screening at MVFF40 at the Sequoia on Friday, October 6 at 2:00p. Filmmaker Stephen Olsson will attend the screening and participate in a Q&A following the film.