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Driftless documentary attempts innovative funding through web
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The Mississippi Valley Conservancy, which partnered with the production company Untamed Science, is working to complete a documentary film entitled ‘Mysteries of the Driftless’ that features the secret places and unique landscape of the bluff lands region (“Driftless Area”) of the Upper Mississippi River and its tributaries.

MVC and Untamed Science have launched an online crowd-funding campaign to raise the balance needed for post-production and distribution. They are encouraging the public to visit and become part of the project with a goal to Help Save the Driftless.

‘Mysteries of the Driftless’ is a documentary about a team of explorers and scientists kayaking down deeply cut tributary valleys, buzzing the treetops in an open-cockpit plane, and climbing rocky bluffs to reveal answers to the mysteries within the Driftless Area. Their journey will expose both the science and threats behind three unique features of the zone - rare plants and animals, odd geological phenomenon, and striking remnants of a Native American pilgrimage like no other.

What these explorers reveal will not only give the audience a greater appreciation for the unique diversity of this “island of land” that escaped glacial scouring, but will inspire a greater appreciation for this amazing area. The goal is not to answer all the mysteries, but to document the exploratory process for the viewers. In the end, the film will ignite the curiosity of viewers to discover more about the area for themselves.

Led by two award-winning filmmaking scientists, biologist Rob Nelson and geologist Dan Bertalan, this team of explorers will reveal the majesty and allure of the Driftless Area using a stunning combination of documentary filmmaking techniques blended with genuine adventure. The team also includes noted authors of Native American archaeology Robert Boszhardt and Dr. James Theler to further document archaeological remnants found along the steep bluffs, geography Professor Jim Knox to help decode the Driftless geologic mysteries, and Driftless ecologists Darcy Kind, Armund Bartz, Tim Yager, and Abbie Church investigating the numbers and health of rare species that have persisted here for over a million years.

The film will address questions like the following:

• What strange forces saved one isolated section along the Upper Mississippi River from the repeated crushing and scouring effects of glaciers during the last million years?

• What pre-ice age throwbacks survived here in this unique geologic refuge that holds more Native America effigy mounds, petroglyph caves, strange geology features, and rare species than anywhere in the Midwest?

• Why did certain Native American cultures thrive here in ancient prehistory and then suddenly disappear, and what lessons can we learn from the cave paintings they left behind?

"If there's one thing that impacted me the most in making of this film, is the sheer amount of natural wonders the Driftless has to discover that lay hidden with the region,” said Dan Bertalan, a geologist and documentary filmmaker from Untamed Science. “It's just a matter of knowing where to look and what to look for. In fact, it's almost embarrassing as a filmmaking scientist living in Wisconsin that I've traveled the Driftless Area for years, just skimming over the veneer, never realizing all the genuine natural and historical mysteries that lay hidden within the ridges and valleys there. And each natural mystery that we tried to unravel during the expedition only generated more questions about what happened here over the past 2.5 million years. This film will definitely open people's eyes with some startling revelations."

MVC’s executive director Tim Jacobson lauded the film, as well.

“Working on a documentary like this is a dream come true, Jacobson said. “We live in the most amazing and beautiful area. This film provides a tremendous opportunity to showcase the natural and archaeological treasures and mysteries surrounding us in the bluff lands region of the Upper Mississippi. It will help us educate people of all ages, and it will highlight the great opportunities for outdoor recreation, which will promote tourism.”

Public Television has already endorsed the project with a formal letter of support and the filmmakers have planned an extensive distribution and screening campaign for 2013. Important parts of that distribution campaign are local screenings, noted film festivals and community showings to help recruit more citizens and communities to help save ecosystems within the Driftless Area.

In addition to the lead production and science roles of Mississippi Valley Conservancy and Untamed Science, a number of other organizations and businesses are supporting this effort, including the LaCrosse Community Foundation, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Coulee Region Trout Unlimited, The Prairie Enthusiasts, Riverland Conservancy, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Radisson Hotel LaCrosse, and Wenonah Canoe/Current Designs Kayaks.