In the opening scene of the film “Wrenched,” about Edward Abbey and his provocative book “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” the author and environmental firebrand is driving his giant red Cadillac convertible around red-rock country.
He muses in the voice-over about nature and humanity, and it sets up a 90-minute documentary that explores the life of Abbey and the story behind his rollicking novel about eco-saboteurs.
The documentary turns out to be the perfect pair with the reemerging Northern Arizona Book Festival, which arrives in September after a two-year hiatus.
To help raise money and get the community excited about the festival, the fest is screening “Wrenched: The Legacy of the Monkey Wrench Gang” 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 30 at the Orpheum Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10.
The director, M.L. Lincoln, will be on hand for a Q-and-A session with other people who worked on the film. Learn more about the event at www.orpheumflagstaff.com. Learn more about the film at www.wrenched-themovie.com.
The timing of the screening and fundraiser is particularly poignant, as “The Monkey Wrench Gang” turns 40 years old this August. Already, a number of books have come out about Abbey this year in honor of the milestone, and the director noted that requests for more film screenings have popped up as Abbey’s name is resurfacing.
“We’re seeing more interest and more screenings are coming up for the fall,” Lincoln said in a recent phone interview. “And we have some interesting venues. We’re actually going to be at the Arise Music Festival in Loveland, Colorado ... We’re seeing how Ed Abbey’s message is being kept alive in another generation. It’s good to keep it going with the young people.”
One of the key book festival organizers, James Jay, explained that the idea to show the film surfaced when he spoke with Chris Scully Orpheum Theater, which has become an integral partner for the festival and will be the main venue for the festival.
“We’d planned on having a panel discussion of Abbey’s career; however, (Scully) suggested we show the movie ‘Wrenched,’ since it was the 40th anniversary of the release of Abbey’s ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang,’" Jay said. "He reached out to the folks at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival to give us a hand making this happen.”
The film premiered at the Sedona International Film Festival in 2014 and has gone on to screen in 27 festivals throughout the country. It has scooped up accolades and honors through its initial run. Lincoln said that it’s also been shown in Canada, where even some folks who have not heard of Abbey felt a strong connection to the documentary.
She said the problems of environmental destruction and the climate crisis have seemingly caused people to gravitate to Abbey’s message.
“The situation is actually more dire now than it was back then," she said. "Yes, all of these people were fighting for the environment back then, but we had no idea what was coming up and what we’re faced with now. People from all walks of life are being affected by what’s going on — climate change, fracking, floods and roads going where they shouldn’t.”
While Abbey is a persona known for spurring a radical brand of environmentalism, often called monkey-wrenching, he also is celebrated among the literary set for his writing. Among his other popular works are "Desert Solitaire," the sequel "Hayduke Lives!" and a collection of his journals called "Confessions of a Barbarian."
The event is a chance to celebrate both the writing and the message.
“The showing of ‘Wrenched’ and the celebration of Edward Abbey’s legacy fits precisely into our hope and visions for the 2015 Northern Arizona Book Festival," Jay said.
The Northern Arizona Boook Festival is scheduled for Sept. 7-13, with the headlining event at the Orpheum on Sept. 12.