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Torrice's "Trees in Trouble" film has local roots, national relevance

Andrea Torrice and videographer Dave Morrison on location in Spring Grove Cemetery



Three years ago, local filmmaker Andrea Torrice was jogging through Burnet Woods and noticed swaths of dead trees with an “X” spray-painted on them.
 
“Then my neighbor said, ‘Do you know, we’re going to loose them all. There’s an invasive species from China that’s killing them all,’” Torrice recounts.
 
As the filmmaker learned more about the Emerald Ash Borer, she began to realize the scale of the issue of tree loss nationally as well as in Cincinnati. She became passionate about the value of trees to human economies, social life, health and well-being, which inspired her to make the documentary film Trees in Trouble.
 
The film explores the national issue of tree loss, specifically the loss of Ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect native to China that arrived in the packing material of goods being shipped to the U.S. Trees in Trouble focuses on Cincinnati’s reaction to the arrival of the pest and how the city is responding. Since the Ash Borer arrived here a few years ago, more than 12,000 dead Ash trees have been cut down just on land owned by the city.
 
“I wanted to use Cincinnati as a case study for other communities,” Torrice says. “My film explores the rich history of urban forestry in the region.”
 
That history, going back over 100 years, is one of the reasons Torrice focused on Cincinnati. She sees a current need for urban forestry and stewardship of our green spaces as a continuation of this tradition.
 
Trees in Trouble is more than a stand-alone documentary — it’s also part of a larger social movement to value and preserve trees. Torrice hopes that the film will “make us perhaps pause and re-evaluate what we think about trees” because increased international trade makes trees ever more vulnerable to invasive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer.
 
The film will be used to spread the word about what’s happening to trees and to raise a little money for associated causes. Its first public showing will be a sneak preview Nov. 5 at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The event will benefit the Cincinnati Park Board and Taking Root Reforestation, a campaign to plant 2 million trees in the region by 2020.
 
Just as the film starts in Cincinnati to tell a national story, screenings start in Cincinnati and move to the national arena. After the local sneak preview, the film will be shown at the Continental Dialogue on Invasive Insects and Diseases Nov. 17 and the Partners in Community Forestry Conference Nov. 19, both in Denver. The broadcast premieres will follow the same pattern, with the initial premiere on CET Channel 48 at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 22 and showings on PBS channels nationally on Arbor Day in April 2016.
 
“I’m hoping that people will change their views on the importance of trees,” Torrice says. “We need people, politicians and policy-makers to re-think what trees mean in our communities.”
 
From her viewpoint, understanding the value of trees is the only thing that will save them.
 

Read more articles by Nancy Yerian.

Nancy Yerian is an independent public historian interested in local history and the power of museums. She graduated from Smith College with a major in American History and a concentration in Museum Studies.
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