Staff Pick: Treeline


Jordan Manley, Laura Yale | 2018

2019 Official Selection

40 minutes


Jordan Manley and Laura Yale’s Treeline is meditative and jarring. It yokes disparate landscapes, humans, ecosystems and timelines through several continuous threads that flow together seamlessly through immaculate editing and filmography. Action sports are a large component of the film’s theme–at various points we encounter a downhill ‘tree skier’, a snowboarding monk, and a paleoecologist hiker–but it shouldn’t be called a skiing film or a snowboarding film. Treeline asks us to witness the ways humans engage with landscapes, and the manners in which landscapes engage with each other. A snowboarder gliding down a powder slope isn’t a demonstration of his technical prowess, his speed or his agility (as might be the case in other Patagonia films); rather; the snowboarder is only a component of the larger ecosystem of the shot, and, naturally, of the ecosystem he interacts with.  It’s about interconnections.


This theme is carried throughout both visually and structurally. As our paleoecologist, Dr. Connie Miller, clicks through the rings of a dendochronological slide depicting the years of growth she’s extracted from an old Juniper somewhere in the Sierras, a blown up core sample projected in front of her, a voice over from a Canadian forest ecologist, Dr. Suzanne Simard, discusses the ancient heartbeat of the western red cedar forest she hikes through, and the ways the root systems communicate with each other, always connecting, even in the winter. The trees, she explains, as the paleoecologist’s clicking blends into a soft heartbeat, communicate with one another through a complex network of fungi, sharing resources. “You can think of the network as kind of like the internet, or like a bunch of telephone lines. […] They communicate about insects and diseases, they communicate about their stresses, their happiness or whether they’re replete or not.”

More broadly, the film asks us to consider these intersections by composing itself as an ostensibly incoherent montage. A Japanese tree healer and an ecologist in Canada, a snowboarding monk and a skier from Washington–these collisions of subject are presented without explanation or apology. It is an invitation to develop our own capacity for seeing the little networks that connect us, and (maybe) by extension, uniting us under the umbrella of inhabitants in a world that’s been around for a lot longer than we have. We only walk among the trees. The trees have been here a lot longer than the internet, a lot longer than us. “600 years is a long time,” the forest ecologist says, “It’s like you get that sense of history, of many spirits who have been here before, not just human spirits, but many creatures who have lived here and they’re still here and I get that sense that I’m not here alone, ever. I feel like I’ve entered into this cathedral of the soul. I walk and I feel at home, because I feel like I’m in this community of all these creatures.”

What is most stunning about the film is the art of its imagery. Graceful shots and transitions combine to create a spectacular 40 minutes of meditative, but meaningful imagery. We highly recommend Treeline to anyone who feels invested in the future of our forests, or who simply loves to stand in a forest and feel that interconnectedness that the film works to evoke.

This month’s Staff Pick was brought to you by On Tour Coordinator, Hunter Jones.

If you’re nearby the South Yuba River Citizen League office, you have the opportunity to borrow this film plus over 100 other titles from this year’s festival in our film library.  The film library is open and free to all active SYRCL members. Not sure if you are a member? Call Eric Robins at 530-265-5961 ext 220 to check your membership status. To join or renew, please visit Membership for more information.

Treeline is a 2019 On Tour films, so catch it at your local Wild & Scenic Film Festival On-Tour event!

Want to bring Wild and Scenic Film Festival to your own community? Give us a call  at (530) 265-5961 ext 204.