If you can’t physically go to see America’s National Parks and Monuments, the next best thing is to see them in IMAX. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray (“Journey to the South Pacific,” “National Parks Adventure”) has returned to the scene of the country’s wildest, most beautiful places with his new IMAX adventure, “Into America’s Wild.”
Narrated by Morgan Freeman (who else?), the forty five-minute film experience takes viewers on a unique odyssey into the untouched wilds from Alaska to California and all the way to the East Coast, with haunting ground and aerial photography. But to bring his film down to human scale, MacGillivray highlights three extraordinary athletes, setting them loose on bike, kayak, helicopter and on foot through these majestic places.
“I think people don’t appreciate what they don’t see. So, experiencing it on an IMAX screen puts them in a place that they may not have been to before,” said John Herrington, a Native American astronaut who is one of the film’s subjects.
“I think you can’t really protect what you don’t value. And you can’t value what you don’t experience,” added Jennifer Pharr Davis, a hiker, speaker and National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year.” “Everyone feels a connection to what they see on film…and what I love about our movie is how diverse it represents the geographical United States—it really hits all corners.”
[“Into America’s Wild” will be showing at the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater (Air and Space Museum) and at the Airbus IMAX Theater (Udvar-Hazy Center) starting Friday, February 14th]
“To have that connection to the land is the front line of the battlefield of conservation.”
Ariel Tweto (featured image) is a member of the Yupik tribe of Alaska, and is a rather seasoned helicopter pilot to boot and was previously on “Flying Wild Alaska.” She said she hopes “Into America’s Wild” will bring a greater appreciation to the fact that a warming climate is adversely affecting the traditional ways of hunting and gathering that her people have enjoyed for centuries.
“This summer we had over ten days of 90-plus degree weather in my village,” she said. “We haven’t had shelf ice the last two years; it hasn’t frozen. You see it firsthand and it’s scary.”
“It is taking a big toll [with] the migration of the caribou. We used to have a herd that would come right to our village, but now you have to travel five days to get to these herds.”
Added Herrington: “When they talk about the [Alaskan] plains they want to develop, once you come out of the village, there’s this stunning [area] where all the porcupine caribou migrate. So if you get out into [the wilderness], you see it and appreciate the beauty of it.”
“If kids aren’t out rolling in the dirt or jumping in the ocean or smelling the trees, why would they care about it?” Tweto agreed. “Because you don’t really care about things you haven’t physically touched. That’s why it’s so important to get kids excited to go outside.”
“One of the reasons I love IMAX is that you can’t get more sensory in a virtual way than” on that giant screen, said Pharr Davis, the hiker who once set a record for fasting time on the Appalachian Trail. She said she hopes people who live in urban environments will be especially drawn to “Into America’s Wild.”
“That’s the ultimate goal,” she said. “In IMAX you don’t just watch it; it’s full sensory [impact and] really takes people to some incredible places.”
Indeed, the experience of filming “Into America’s Wild” served as a balm for Herrington, who at the time production began was grieving the recent loss of his wife, Margo, who was herself a documentarian.
“They called me within a week of my wife passing away. They had no idea,” Herrington said, without a trace of bitterness at the unfortunate turn. “It gave me something to focus on and people to meet.
“The neat thing was I said ‘When are you going to release this?’ and they said February 2020. Her birthday is February 20th. We’re [filming] in Shiprock, Arizona, [where] I was supposed to drive a Cadillac convertible down Route 66, and they show up with a white Corvette convertible. My wife had a white Corvette convertible.”
“Natural places [are] a place where you can grieve as it doesn’t try to ‘fix it,’” added Pharr Davis. “I always say the outdoors is the best therapist I’ve ever had.”
“The last river trip I did was a memorial to her up on the Hula-Hula in Alaska,” Herrington, who lives in Montana, said of his late wife. “We [took] our honeymoon on that river.”
Tweto said that she has never once regretted going outdoors, and even though the feats she performs in “Into America’s Wild” are well above the average, she said everyone can enjoy being outside no matter his or her athletic prowess.
“For me it’s just for fun to be outside,” she said, adding she hasn’t missed a day of running since August 2001. “I don’t wear watches. I just want to go as long as I can or as short as I want.”
“I hope one thing people get out of this is that our bodies are a part of nature,” Pharr Davis said. “I think it’s really cool that we had two indigenous, or native, guides [who] take you around the land [as] the main ‘characters.’”
Film will be showing at the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater (Air and Space Museum, 655 Jefferson Drive, Washington, D.C.) and the Airbus IMAX Theater (Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA) starting this Friday.