Professor’s winning film in Cincinnati Film Festival

By: Tatum Hunter

The Cincinnati Film Festival is coming up and with it comes the debut of “Sanctity of Sanctuary,” a feature documentary by Blis DeVault, an assistant professor in Xavier’s Department of Communication Arts.

The film already premiered in Australia, winning Best Environmental Film at the 2013 Byron Bay International Film Festival. DeVault is hoping to keep up her winning record this week in Cincinnati.

“It’s a love story,” DeVault said of the documentary which examines the relationship between Paul Strauss, an organic farmer and herbalist, and the Equinox farm, a farm he has cared for and loved for the last 40 years.

Viewers get a glimpse into the life of a man with a strong distaste for materialism and a passionate commitment to the earth.

Strauss uses his farm to run educational programs, cultivate and sell botanical plants and provide sanctuary for endangered plant species by setting aside part of his land for use by the United Plant Savers.

While Strauss’ eccentricity was not always welcome in Rutland, Ohio, over time an informal community of people committed to living organically has sprung up around the Equinox Farm. Strauss started with 80 acres.

Today, Equinox Farm and the surrounding community make up 3,000 acres and counting.

The documentary also deals with the threat posed by environmentally harmful practices like strip mining, mountaintop removal and fracking, and it calls for audiences to become better stewards of their environment.

The debut of this film is timely considering Xavier’s recent launch of three new sustainability-focused majors, and DeVault hopes that her film will reach Xavier students and touch the Xavier community in a meaningful way.

DeVault chose Paul Strauss and Equinox Farm as the subjects of her documentary because the emotions and topics raised by their story are relevant, evocative and, according to DeVault, urgent.

“What’s more important than what we’re doing to the world?” DeVault said. “We can’t just consume, consume, consume. We just can’t.”

Another of DeVault’s main goals in this project was to show her students that media is a powerful tool for communication, and one voice can make a difference.

Alie Nese, a Xavier graduate and former student of DeVault’s, affirms this conviction. Nese helped DeVault with the marketing of the film.

“It made me think twice about the way I do things,” she said. “This film is so well done. Xavier isn’t looked at as a big media school, so it’s great to have someone like her (DeVault) at the university.”

The documentary will show at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 9 and at 4:45 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Tower Place Mall.