Big Footsteps: Silverado Film Fest Honors Huell Howser

You can picture Huell Howser in the thick of Silverado, asking hikers what those thick-soled foot coverings with laces are called (“Boots”). He'd instruct his longtime cameraman, “Louie, come in tighter on this” to capture what he's convinced is the most fascinating sage scrub on the planet. Then he'd wander over to Cook's Corner and marvel at how bikers' tattooed biceps were nearly as thick as his own.

The public-television broadcaster known for Visiting . . ., California's Gold and a massive archive at Chapman University is gone, but he is not forgotten by organizers of the Silverado Film Festival. The theme of the second-annual event, which runs Friday through Sunday inside and outside the Silverado Community Center, is “In the Footsteps of Huell.”

In between the many short films screening—the final count was unknown at press time because the deadline for submissions was Sept. 20—will be Orange County-centric clips from Howser's shows, including his videotaped visits to Anaheim, Starr Ranch, San Juan Capistrano, the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve and Helena Modjeska Historic House.

Befitting the honoree and the rustic environs, things will be kept loose, promises Joel Robinson, the event organizer, Santa Ana Mountains Wild Heritage Project (SAMWHP) naturalist and Weekly contributor. The fest also features live music and barbecue.

The idea is to attract visitors and inspire stewardship, appreciation and preservation of the rural canyon community that's threatened by disasters both natural and man-made. The event is an offshoot of the nonprofit SAMWHP, in partnership with Chapman's Dodge College of Film N Media Arts and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Submissions were solicited for films one to 50 minutes long that were inspired by local natural and cultural resources. A top prize of $500 will be given to the movie deemed best.

The lineup includes such documentaries as: Michael Barth, José Tadeu V. Bijos, Pasqual Gutierrez and Ruby Stocking's visually stunning Still, which is about free diver/photographer/ocean protector Carlos Eyles; Mor Albalak, Molly Gard and Britne Goldstein's moving Karisma, a look at the titular horse at the Bethany's Gait equine-assisted psychotherapy center in San Juan Capistrano and her rider, a 6-year-old girl who suffers from chronic illness and severe anxiety; and José Luis Gallo's Stop Stealing Our Cars, about a community coming together in the streets of Santa Ana on May Day 2011 to protest costly police impounds of vehicles.


Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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