River Film Fest

Elevate awareness about freshwater ecosystems, particularly the impacts of river fragmentation, through engaging film screenings, expert discussions, and knowledge-sharing sessions, fostering a movement towards dam removal and river restoration in Germany.

Project context and opportunity

This project aims to create an inspirational atmosphere, utilising the River Film Fest events to build enthusiasm and provide an informal space for raising questions and discussing solutions regarding river restoration and dam removal. With invited experts and informational materials, each event will disseminate knowledge, showcase success stories, and encourage action on river restoration projects, including barrier removal. Living Rivers Foundation is actively engaged in policy advocacy on both European and German levels. Through their River Film Fests, they also target regional administration and policy, especially those overseeing smaller dams.

The River Film Fest comprises a series of at least seven movie evenings in various cities in Germany and optionally abroad. Following the success of the Main FlussFilmFest in March 2023, which focused on river continuity, they plan to continue with events in Bayreuth and Bamberg, exploring selected dam removal sites in the River Main region in Oberfranken, including tributaries. Additional River Film Fest events are scheduled for Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg. On November 17th, the River Films will be featured in the Gewässerschutzforum, the main joint online event organised by German environmental NGOs on freshwater conservation and restoration.

Project aims

The River Film Fest aligns with the inspiring mission of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, California, where activism finds its inspiration. This fest is a celebration of free rivers, clean water, and freshwater life, aiming to alter the discourse on rivers through storytelling, scientific insights, and the inspiration to take action.

In this project, one specific objective of the River Film Fest events is to broaden the perspectives of stakeholders, encouraging them to view dam removal as a viable option for river restoration. The fest seeks to identify potential small dam removal sites and develop proposals to align them with funding opportunities, such as those provided by Open Rivers.

A secondary goal involves inspiring key stakeholders, including state water administrations and bodies responsible for maintaining smaller rivers (municipalities), the federal Ministry of Transport (legally responsible for river continuity on “Bundeswasserstraßen”), and local stakeholders engaged in small-scale restoration measures (e.g., angler associations and environmental NGOs, as seen in Hamburg). The aim is to enhance the consideration of dam removal as an effective measure for river restoration.

Project impact

While dam removal has gained traction in other European countries, there’s limited documentation of such initiatives in Germany, indicating a potential area for improvement. Through the organisation of River Film Fests, the aim is to heighten awareness about freshwater ecosystems and the impacts of river fragmentation. Living Rivers Foundation will provide background information at these events. Following or between movie screenings, the audience will engage in discussions with experts from various fields (scientists, activists, sportspeople, anglers, etc.). This presents a valuable opportunity for experts to share knowledge and best practices, driving the dam removal movement forward.

Objectives include:

  1. Following up on at least three dam removal sites in support of the WWF’s “Lebendige Flüsse” call, promoted during the Main FlussFilmFest.
  2. Identifying additional dam removal options and exploring funding opportunities at various events.
  3. Introducing the dam removal concept at the Gewässerschutzforum (online) and in Hamburg, Berlin, and the Lower Odra Valley to restoration activists.
  4. Promoting dam removal activities to key stakeholders, including state authorities, anglers, and the National Ministry of Transport.

Main Fluss Film Fest recap pdf