Bison & Accessibility Come Together in New Climate Film

All Among the Bison: An Inclusive Vision for Tomorrow is a new film created by Montreal-based writer and director Duncan McDowall in collaboration with Tomorrow’s Air. 

The film tells the story of Steve Holly and Cody Spencer, two entrepreneurs and activists working in Southwestern Alberta. Both are dedicated in different ways to restoring balance and a natural order that has been lost. Set in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies as well as Canada’s prairie grasslands, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, the film showcases the work of these two passionate individuals:

  • Steve Holly works with physical and cognitively disabled individuals to restore their access to outdoor recreation.
  • Cody Spencer re-introduces bison to their natural habitat of the prairie grasslands in an effort to help restore native grasses and biodiversity,  preserving this precious resource for generations to come. 

Steve and Cody’s individual missions come together when disabled individuals are brought to grasslands alongside the bison, providing a stirring reminder of our interdependence and how connection is at the heart of balance. If we are to restore our climate, the film suggests, we can make a meaningful start by restoring our connection with each other and with nature.

Canada’s grasslands, sometimes known simply as The Prairies, begin on Alberta's western border with British Columbia. The film explores the interdependence between The Prairies and bison, reflecting on the way each has historically sustained the other. Grasslands of the past were maintained by the wild bison and elk that grazed upon them: these large mammals trimmed the grasses through their feeding, and their hooves stirred the soil, pushing seed for native grasses and forbs and dead plants down into the ground to create new life.

Grasslands today are threatened by encroachment, loss of animals such as bison, and our warming climate. 

For the Tomorrow’s Air audience, the regeneration underway in Alberta offers a microcosm of what is needed overall to restore our climate: connection, balance, understanding. As the film touchingly acknowledges, our climate problem is a symptom of our imbalance and loss of understanding about our interdependence with other species and nature. 

After months of interviewing and shooting out in the prairies Duncan said, “Walking out on the grasslands amongst the bison was energizing; filming this opened my eyes to why proximity to these charismatic creatures can be restorative for people. Learning that their presence supports the environment has really reinforced for me connection between humans, plants and animals. ”

For this film Duncan made numerous trips into the wilderness for 3 months using a stripped down Blackmagic Pocket 4K and Rode field mic. The biggest challenge in shooting was the fact that he was working solo, and capturing the action proved to be difficult. For Steve’s work with cognitively disabled individuals the movement and action is on land and water; for Cody’s work with the bison, the action surrounds animals who are very sensitive to pressure and hard to approach.

To restore our climate, we’ll need to do a lot of clean up, and we’ll need to pull ourselves back into balance with other species and nature. Visionary pioneers will lead the way.

The film will premiere at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Lugano, Switzerland on October 5, 2022 and be available online after that. 

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