Commissioned by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership of Northfield, in 2016 Cornejo Sotelo was invited to curate and program DOWNSTREAM Environmental Film Series. The series was presented over three consecutive Saturdays over the month of February 2017, at three different venues in Northfield. Each event focused on one specific theme and was followed by a Q&A session. For more information on the series, visit the Downstream site, or see the curator’s statement below.


Downstream ~Environmental Film Series
Commissioned by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership of Northfield, MN.
Selection of feature and short environmental films presented at multiple venues in Northfield.

what happens upstream affects those downstream 

The value of this series lies in its recognition that documentaries can inform, persuade and inspire an audience more effectively when films are experienced communally and discussed collectively. Luckily, we live in a time when documentary as a whole is undergoing a ‘golden age’ of sorts, and the surge and consolidation of the environmental documentary into an established form only confirms this assertion. The abundance of existing material made the selection of films for DOWNSTREAM both exhilarating and challenging, but it was clear from the beginning that films that could help us reflect on local concerns, without sacrificing a global vision, would be favored. As such, the films showcased in this series cannot be separated from the framework that sustains them.

DOWNSTREAM is presented over three consecutive Saturdays with each screening focusing on one specific theme. The first program, presented on February 11 at St. Olaf College, is dedicated to films that address environmental justice. These films bring awareness to some of the communities most affected by climate change who, not coincidentally, are often the most marginalized from the debates. The screening is followed by a Q&A session with a range of local activists, including members of the Young People’s Action Coalition, who speak about their decision to become involved and reflect on what that experience actually entails.

The second program, video and activism, presented on February 18 at Carleton College, considers the vital role that film and video play in calling attention to the problems caused by human development and presenting solutions to these problems. This event is co-sponsored by Take Back the Tap, a student organization at Carleton, and is one of the events of 2017’s Climate Action Week. The screening is followed by a Q&A session with local filmmakers, representatives from the Save the Boundary Waters, and Patagonia, the clothing brand that has become a major producer and distributor of environmental films.

Our third and final program, presented on February 25 at the Northfield High School Auditorium, is dedicated to dams and healthy waterways. The films included in this section charter a course for a more focused conversation about our own Cannon River, its dams, and the way in which rivers and our communities are impacted by them. This Q&A with local experts includes a representative from the Minnesota DNR and is then followed by a silent auction to benefit the work of CRWP.

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul,” said Edward Abbey. It is our hope that the simple act of getting together to view films, along with the opportunity to engage in animated discussion, will inform, motivate and urge you to action.

Cecilia Cornejo, DOWNSTREAM guest curator and programmer