Screening of The Colorado Coincides with John Wesley Powell Expedition Anniversary

Feb. 27, 2018

The Colorado

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Illinois Wesleyan University will present a screening of the internationally acclaimed documentary The Colorado  on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. in the Hansen Student Center (300 E. Beecher Street, Bloomington). The film’s director and co-author, Murat Eyuboglu, will introduce the film and discuss its development and production. Eyuboglu will answer questions following the screening, which is free and open to the public.

The screening coincides with the 150th anniversary of a faculty and student expedition to the Colorado Rocky Mountains that was organized and led by Illinois Wesleyan professor John Wesley Powell in the summer of 1868.

A music-based documentary, The Colorado creates a crossroads between art, ecology and regional history. Narrated by Oscar-nominee Mark Rylance, the film explores the Colorado River Basin from social and ecological perspectives across history, from the prehistoric settlements of the region, through European exploration, modern industrial agriculture, immigration and the impact of climate change. The film’s score is performed by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, cellist Jeffrey Zeigler (Kronos Quartet), and composer-percussionist Glenn Kotche (Wilco). Of the five composers who wrote the film's soundtrack, one, John Luther Adams, is a Pulitzer prizewinner.

A self-made naturalist, explorer and former Civil War veteran, Powell joined the Illinois Wesleyan faculty in 1865 as a professor of natural science and also designed the University’s motto and seal. Using an innovative approach for science education, Powell led a group of Illinois Wesleyan students to the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the summers of 1867 and 1868. These expeditions are acknowledged as among the first to use field work for teaching science. He is most famous for leading the first extensive American exploration of the Colorado River region and the Grand Canyon in 1869.

John Wesley Powell
John Wesley Powell

Following his time at Illinois Wesleyan, Powell served as the director of the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology. During this time, he published his Report on the Lands of the Arid Region, arguing that there was not enough available water in the West to support high-density populations and large scale agriculture.

The Colorado captures Powell’s views, showcasing that for over 5 million years, the Colorado River has served as the lifeline for a vast portion of North America. It provides the water that now sustains nearly 40 million people, half a dozen major cities and an immense agricultural empire. Because of these demands, the river is so overused that it no longer flows to the sea or nourishes its delta.

Although Powell’s views were opposed by legislators of the time, he is recognized for his contributions to anthropological studies of the indigenous people of the American Southwest and his public policies for land use in the arid West. His wisdom and foresight with regards to sustainability and conservation of the water in the arid West are seen as paving the way for future efforts.

The film, which has been screened at numerous national and international film festivals, will be shown at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. following the screening at Illinois Wesleyan. The screening is a co-curricular event of the University’s annual theme, The Evolution of Revolution.

By Vi Kakares '20