Flagstaff Applauds Message of “Keep It Grand”

National Headquarters  |  February 15, 2016

Flagstaff Arizona is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, so it’s no wonder that interest in Tzu Chi USA’s “Keep it Grand”, a documentary that champions environmental protection in the Grand Canyon, would be high.

Of course, we're going to celebrate the big ditch. We are so blessed to have this wonder in our backyard. So tonight, let's celebrate the Grand Canyon.

John Tveten Executive Director, Flagstaff Mountain Festival

The documentary’s director Daniel Ferrara reports that “the audience was very enthusiastic, and everyone seemed driven to take action and help protect the Grand Canyon”, as the Q & A session that followed post screening would prove. Along with Ferrara, Renae Yellowhorse, Serrana Riggs, and Delores Wilson from Save the Confluence, and Roger Clark from the Grand Canyon Trustwere present to respond to questions from the audience.

A reporter from the Navajo Hopi Times asked Ferrara why he would travel thousands of miles away from New York City to make a film in Arizona. Ferrara is a staff director at Tzu Chi and shares the Foundation’s spirit of love and mission of environmental protection, but it was his producer at Tzu Chi’s Media Production Office in New York who spurred him on, and a Native American leader he read about who inspired him:

My producer Ting Fan [at Tzu Chi USA] asked if I would make a film dealing with the severe drought happening in the Southwest. I had just read an article about Renae Yellowhorse [from Save the Confluence], and her story and her passion really inspired me. And I realized that this special, sacred place brought together a lot of different groups. Everyone cared about the Grand Canyon and was fighting to protect it. So I wanted to bring all of these people together in one film and tell this story from cultural, environmental, and economic perspectives.

Navajo matriarch Renae Yellowhorse would prove to be a star that evening, and rightly so, since she exhibits the same depth of conviction about protecting the environment as Master Cheng Yen. She expressed her appreciation that the film is spreading a message that she is so committed to:

“The film … conveyed the human feelings and brought out the human side of the story.  And that’s what I’m hearing from everyone around me, of the struggle and what we’re all faced with. With the water, the environment, and also the sacred places. It was powerful.  We were so overwhelmed by all of the support and understanding from everybody…This is what we want people to know. That we still live in the area… We will continue to fight the development as long as we have to.”

The audience was equally appreciative, thanking Save the Confluence for their efforts in protecting the Grand Canyon. One man even said:

I think you are all heroes.

The representatives of Save the Confluence that were present grew emotional from all the support they were receiving, and Delores Wilson was brought to tears:

Thank you so much to the whole world for your support. It is what has helped us through these difficult times.

Roger Clark from Grand Canyon Trust also championed the impact of the film and echoed comments about the importance of Native American efforts on behalf of the environment:

The educational impact of [“Keep it Grand”] is illustrated by the kinds of questions it provoked. Some members of the audience learned that Navajo, Hopi, and other communities have set aside perceived differences in uniting to protect the confluence from development. People witnessed how the power of place, community, and cooperation are making a difference. And, I hope, a few people's hearts and minds were opened a bit to reflecting on their own prejudgments and prejudices. The film connects threats to the Grand Canyon to broader global threat … Save the Confluence enlightened new audiences about the power of communities to organize and change their future.

As the Q & A session drew to a close, one member of the audience asked:

I think a lot of us just want to know, what can we do to help?”

Delores Wilson from Save the Confluence pointed out:

You can help let other people know about the issues. We're all in this together.

And that’s our view at Tzu Chi USA when producing this film: Let’s educate the public and inspire an environmental protection movement.

Keep your eye out for more news about “Keep it Grand” as it continues its festival journey in the days to come.

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