Revisiting a River Journey

Film shares story of healing, nature, advocacy


Patrice Mutchnick lives full time in the Gila forest. Her ties to the Gila River encircle her with connection to the land, the water and the world, past and future.

“I feel personally, as many people, very comfortable in my own body and in my own mind when I am with the river,” she said. “It’s something children instinctively know. With the sounds and the feeling with the water, we get our feet wet. With flowers and the critters, we are in the moment.”

A founder of the non-profit “Heart of the Gila,” Mutchnick is the mother of Ella Jaz Kirk, of one of three young people who died at 14 in an airplane crash in 2014 while on a conservation discovery flight over the Gila Wilderness. She works through the organization to encourage conservation of the wild places and instill in the next generation a love of the wilderness.

On May 4, Heart of the Gila will screen the film “Journey Down the Gila,” a film which explores grief, renewal and hope along the Gila River. The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m., at The Silco Theater in downtown Silver City.

This full-length documentary tells the story of three New Mexico teens who died in service to the wild places they loved, their mothers’ journey down the wild river they sought to protect, and the struggle to keep the Gila free forever. The film culminates with a trip the three mothers made to Washington D.C. to advocate for federal legislation to protect the Gila River.

The evening includes a Q and A about the making of the film and an update on the recent re-introduction of the “M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act.” The legislation came out of a community-led proposal and protects nearly 450 miles of the Gila and San Francisco as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

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“I feel connected [near the river] to all the people who have lived in that place including my daughter,” Mutchnick said. “I feel urgency to keep it for self and all the creatures. I get to be in the flow ­– all things past and future rushing by you at the same time.”

She said sharing the film is part of sharing what connects all of us.

“We all have grief,” she said. “We all have loss, and we all have challenges. This is a way to focus on doing something larger than ourselves that we can get meaning from. It makes me feel like a child.”