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Film profiles mountain river guardians

Director David Weintraub interviews Jim Stokely, Wilma Dykeman’s son and the director of the Wilma Dykeman Legacy Foundation, for ‘Guardians of Our Troubled Waters,’ a documentary about rivers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Director David Weintraub interviews Jim Stokely, Wilma Dykeman’s son and the director of the Wilma Dykeman Legacy Foundation, for ‘Guardians of Our Troubled Waters,’ a documentary about rivers of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What if we could smell our local rivers long before we could see them? What if our legacy was dead streams, poisonous water and a dying ecosystem? This was the story of our community not very long ago. Mark Twain remarked that our rivers were “too thin to plow but too thick to drink” and that describes the French Broad River, the Pigeon, the Swannanoa, the Mills and the Green and many other regional waterways just a couple of decades ago.

Industry brought better paying jobs to our community but they also brought pollution so toxic that it killed the fish, the cows and in some cases, the community where cancer rates were off the charts. Many people grew up believing that all rivers were supposed to be brown and smelly and distasteful. But enter the River Heroes who said no to the destruction. People like Wilma Dykeman in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida, the Upper French Broad Defense Association in North Carolina and the Dead Pigeon River Council in Tennessee.
Their passion, their activism and their call to save our waterways awoke our communities to the need for river stewardship. The Center for Cultural Preservation, a History and Documentary Film Center, will release director David Weintraub’s new film on the ordinary people who did extraordinary things to protect southern rivers and streams.
“Guardians of Our Troubled Waters,” the center’s sixth feature film that connects people to their rich cultural and natural history, will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at the North Carolina Arboretum and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at White Horse Black Mountain. Tickets are $15 and advanced reservations are strongly recommended by registering online at www.saveculture.org or calling the Center at (828) 692-8062. Music by Cherokee performer Matthew Tooni will open each screening and a Q&A with the director will follow the show.