Rivers Are Life

"River of Angels” Presented at the FoLAR 2022 RiverFest

Rivers are Life presented its film “River of Angels” at the FoLAR 2022 RiverFest. The film features the heroes of the Los Angeles (LA) River and their work to increase awareness of the urban waterway and restore it back to its place as a thriving part of the city.

“We were honored to have ‘River of Angels’ selected as one of the featured films in the inaugural FoLAR Film Festival,” says Kate Ritcher Green, Head of Digital Content Programming at BeAlive, who spearheads Rivers are Life. “We support FoLAR’s mission and appreciate the work they are doing with communities surrounding the LA River.”

Los Angeles used to be home to thriving streams, creeks, and wetlands. Before 1938, when it was encased in concrete to prevent flooding and regulate flow to the ocean, the LA river was an accessible and key resource to the indigenous people and city environment.

Almost 50 years later, in 1986, Lewis MacAdams (poet, activist, and river advocate) cut the chains that had walled the river off from the public. This act of protest began the multi-decade movement to restore the river as a unifying water source for Los Angeles citizens, and created FoLAR.

FoLAR is a grassroots organization based around the care and education of the LA waterway. It cultivates a place for the diverse communities, students, and leaders of LA to learn about the river ecosystem and take action to improve it. By educating residents on the existence and importance of the river on the city and their lives, FoLAR encourages them to advocate for local and global issues like healthy waterways, climate justice, and social change.

The organization is rooted in diversity and prioritizes inclusivity and justice in its work. FoLAR acknowledges the land and river it operates on is the ancestral homeland of the Gabrieleño-Tongva, Fernandeño Tataviam, Gabrieleño-Kizh, and Chumash peoples. It’s respectful in its work with nature and communities and envisions a world where the river can thrive as it did under the care of indigenous peoples.

FoLAR works to improve equitable access and ecological restoration of the LA river to fight climate change and strengthen people’s connection with nature in their city. It uses several different approaches such as on-site school and community education programs, river cleanups, and river tours. The organization also takes on much larger initiatives that invite the entire community to come together, including annual Earth Day river cleanups and RiverFest, the group’s free film festival that celebrates the history and love of the city’s central waterway.

RiverFest is an annual event and free fundraiser designed to get everyone in the city involved. The one-day event, which takes place in Los Angeles State Historic Park, focuses stories and Indigenous perspectives on both the LA river and nature in California as a whole with the intent on making environmental justice as fun, welcoming, and educational as possible.

“It was so special to attend the festival in person and meet Dennis Mabasa and the FoLAR team. The night was absolutely perfect, and every detail was thought out. We were proud to be a sponsor and get the word out about Rivers are Life, as well as make many connections that have continued to flourish well after the event,” says Green.

RiverFest 2022 featured six short environmental films, over thirty booths, and more than 550 attendees. Rivers are Life was thrilled to join in the celebration of the LA river with a $2,500 donation to FoLAR in support of their work. RaL also hosted a festival booth where they gave away water purifiers, reusable Yeti cups, and answered questions about their feature film, “River of Angels.”

“River of Angels” is a short film that digs deeper into the impact of the Los Angeles river on the lives of the city’s residents. It tells the story of how the river was taken away from its people and how they work to reclaim it for the benefit of everyone.

The film focuses the perspectives of fly fishers Lino Jubilado and Analiza Del Rosario, who are avid protectors and fishers of the LA river. The two of them, along with their families and friends, promote the importance and beauty of the LA river and encourage others to visit it as well.

Despite the fact that LA is geographically a river city, many residents aren’t aware of the existence of the river, let alone the peace and tranquility it has to offer.

“Most people think of it as a sewer, but it’s actually a waterway,” Jubilado says. “You can easily mask out all the sound from all the traffic from the freeways.”

Jubilado has fished in the LA river for almost 40 years. Rosario, who prefers to catch and release, is a recent but influential addition to the scene. She brings awareness to the river through her leadership and involvement in local clubs and women’s groups.

“When you tell most people (about) the LA river, they don’t think it’s a safe place,” says Rosario, “but I could walk it for miles.”

The film also features Micheal Affeldt, the Director of the LA River Works Office of the Mayor, and FoLAR’s Director of Education (now Chief Operating Officer,) Dennis Mabaso.

The LA river experiences runoff from the street, sewers, and gutters that bring trash and discarded items into the waterway every time there is a major storm. “River of Angels” shows FoLAR tackling the problem head-on.

Masbaso leads on-site cleanups and education programs at the Louis MacAdams Riverfront Park. They work to connect people with nature and build a future where everyone recognizes themselves as part of the ecosystem. They use community-level solutions to address systematic injustice like climate change and social inequality.

Because of the multi-faceted work from LA River Heroes like Jubilado, Rosario, Mabaso, and Affeldt, there is hope that the LA river will be a healthy and accessible place for all residents once again.

“The more people you make aware of such a beautiful place, the better chance you have of preserving it and making it thrive in the future,” Jubilado says.

RiverFest will be back in 2023. You can watch “River of Angels”  here