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  Filmmaker seeks environmental awareness

By Anne Kyle

The Leader-Post

May 17, 2004

Traveling half-way around the world, Regina film documentary producer Susan Risk chronicles the co-operative efforts between Canada and China to preserve the threatened grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

"I was trying to get the message across that there is no quick fix to environmental problems of this scale, it takes all of us working together to make a difference," said Risk.

"I hope with this documentary I can create an awareness of the global issues of climate change and soil degradation and a greater understanding of what people are doing elsewhere to protect the environment and the impact that work has on everyone," she said.

In late 2000, Risk's companies Sure Fire Production and Live Wire Video Productions partnered with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) to develop the idea for Grassland Transfer, which will air at 9 p.m. May 25 on SCN.

It took four years to pull the funding together and complete the 48-minute documentary with English subtitles, which was shot in Canada and China, primarily in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region.

Risk follows plant ecologist Jeff Thorpe, who is a member of a team of Canadians working with Chinese agricultural experts over the past five years trying to preserve the ecosystem and fragile grasslands while developing a sustainable agricultural model for the Mongolian sheep and cattle herders of the region.

In 2001, Risk traveled to China to scout out the location and do some preliminary research for her documentary. She returned a second time to complete the filming of the PFRA project, accompanying Thorpe on his three-week journey into the Inner Mongolian heartland.

The biggest hurdle was putting together the funding for the project, Risk said, explaining her company invested substantial money of its own in the documentary.

"I spent three years researching the project," she said. This enabled Risk to provide global scientific and technical information about drought, desertification and conservation practices to renew the ailing, fragile grasslands of Inner Mongolia
while offering viewers a glimpse of the rich tapestry of images of the land, the people and their culture.

Having worked in international development with CUSO for 12 years, Risk looked beyond the environmental issues to the impact this project had on the life of the traditional herders, whose livelihood is dependent on the sustainability of the grasslands.

"I would love to go back to China. I just love that country, the food, and traveling there and especially the people, who are so warm and hospitable and helpful. I made some good friends," Risk said, explaining while filming her documentary she also shot footage for PFRA training videos.

Risk founded her company Live Wire Video Productions Inc. in 1988 and has produced a variety of documentaries exploring social and environmental issues both in Saskatchewan and internationally.

Her documentaries have tackled issues such as elder care, escaping domestic abuse, women working in the male-dominated building trades, pioneering women on the Saskatchewan parklands and a more lighthearted music video featuring Noelle Hall and the Stinky Sneaker Band.



From Yeke-juu League to Ordos Municipality: settler colonialism and alter/native urbanization in Inner Mongolia

Close to Eden (Urga): France, Soviet Union, directed by Nikita Mikhilkov

Beyond Great WallsBeyond Great Walls: Environment, Identity, and Development on the Chinese Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

The Mongols at China's EdgeThe Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity

China's Pastoral RegionChina's Pastoral Region: Sheep and Wool, Minority Nationalities, Rangeland Degradation and Sustainable Development

Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

The Ordos Plateau of ChinaThe Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment (Unu Studies on Critical Environmental Regions)
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