Health & Environment

Local flicks turn lens on the environment

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.

Two short films focused on environmental conservation, both shot locally, will be screened at Poquatuck Hall in Orient this month.

This Saturday, Orient couple Margaret Nussbaum and Jim Steech will show their film, “The Orchard.”

Directed by Ms. Nussbaum and written by Mr. Steech, it tells the fictional story of a mother and child struggling to survive in a world decimated by climate change. The plot heats up when they accidentally trespass on a property known as “The Orchard” and discovery a mystery.

This is the couple’s sixth film project and Ms. Nussbaum’s first time directing. In September, the film was named a semifinalist at the Moondance International Film Festival in Connecticut. The festival is a venue for independent films that help spark social and environmental change, which is consistent with the key message of ‘The Orchard,’ Ms. Nussbaum said.

“Being respectful of where we live and how lucky we are to live out here is the primary reason for doing the film,” she said. ““Every day you hear more and more stories about sea levels rising and catastrophic weather events and so many of people worldwide are suffering, I just wanted to tell a story that makes people think about it and what they can do in small ways to protect the environment.”

Preserving the natural beauty of the North Fork in particular was a major inspiration behind the 24-minute film, Ms. Nussbaum said. The film was shot exclusively in Orient over the course of a year and stars only local actors.

“This is our way of giving back to the community,” Ms. Nussbaum said. “This is for locals by locals.”

“The Orchard” will be shown Saturday, Nov. 16, at 5 p.m. at Poquatuck Hall. A suggested donation of $10 per person will benefit the Oysterponds Historical Society. Refreshments will be served.

The following Sunday, Nov. 24, Emmy-award winning filmmaker Greta Schiller of Southold will debut her 12th documentary, which focuses on a small group of East Marion residents and their seven-year endeavor to restore Marion Lake.

“The Marion Lake Story: Defeating the Mighty Phragmite” tells the story of the complete degradation — and eventual restoration — of an 18-acre lake on Bay Avenue. The water body is a crucial habitat for migrating birds, rare turtles and other flora and fauna but is being choked by the invasive reed Australis Phragmite.

In 2007, watching with growing alarm as the lake she grew up on gradually disappeared, East Marion resident Lori Luscher took it upon herself to save the lake and spearhead the Marion Lake Restoration Committee.

Persistent in her fight, Ms. Luscher has been called East Marion’s own Erin Brockovich. For her tireless work in releasing Marion Lake from this decades long ecological stranglehold, The Suffolk Times named Ms. Luscher Civic Person of the Year in 2008.

The film documents the group’s ongoing effort to restore the lake, from the first fundraiser in 2008 to the first blooms of replanted native plants and the challenges along the way.

“So many environmental films are doom and gloom but this shows the positive impact the actions of a small group of people can have,” Ms. Schiller said. “My hope is that it inspires community service. There is so much you can do in your own backyard to make yourself more wildlife-friendly — and you’ll get to know your neighbor in a different light. I really think it’s an inspirational story.”

“The Marion Lake Story: Defeating the Mighty Phragmite” will be shown Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m., also at Poquatuck Hall.

Admission to the screening, a fundraiser to help pay for aspects of final production on the film, is $25 per person. Guests can also pay $45 and receive a copy of the DVD. Children will be admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at

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