UVU professor stars in Sundance Film

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The Sundance Film Festival is a glorious celebration of movie making magic and artistic views. From its beginnings in 1978, the festival has attracted celebrities from across the globe. The event is hosted locally in Utah, but one may sometimes feel that the star-studded event may not be for the locals. But a few local actors and filmmakers are helping to bring the festival back to its Utahan roots.



Sam Rushforth has been the Dean of Science and Health at UVU for the past 12 years. He has also been a part-time professor teaching ecology and conservation to general education students. But Rushforth has more on his resume than most deans. He is also a star in this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and one of a handful of locals that are acting or competing in the event.


Rushforth is an aquatic biologist that has made a life long pursuit of studying the curious one celled organism called the diatom. The diatom is unique because it produces most of the earth’s oxygen and has glass cell walls, which according to Rushforth make it “very ornate and beautiful.” Rushforth tracks the diatom in streams and fresh water lakes.


The reason that the diatom has drawn such attention is that although small, the diatom means something important. “They are good indicators of clean and polluted water,” said Rushforth. “You can tell a lot about the body of water if you can recognize the type of diatom.” So although the diatom itself won’t usually make you sick, the polluted water it resides in definitely can.


For 40 years, Rushforth has been tracking and studying the diatom across the U.S. But his recent studies have brought his focus on the Intermountain West, particularly Northern Utah. “There has not been much diatom work done in our part of the world,” said Rushforth. “It is an open field.”


Rushforth’s good friend, Chris Peters, is a filmmaker based out of California. “Chris is interested in people and their work, so he decided to do a profile on me,” said Rushforth. The friends filmed the documentary short film in one week at Strawberry and Deer Creek reservoir. The film depicts Rushforth in the heart of his studies, gathering samples from different water sources and then taking them back to his laboratory to examine.


Rushforth has not yet watched the completed film, but will go see it when it airs at the Sundance Film Festival where it will compete in the U.S. Short Film category. And in the meantime, Rushforth will continue to study the wetlands on the East shore of The Great Salt Lake in search of the diatom.


By Faith Heaton


Info Box: Sundance Film Festival

Jan. 19- Jan. 29. Screenings


Time Date Event Code Venue City Availability

4:00 pm 1/23/2012 FRONS23RA Redstone Cinema 7 Park City Waitlist Only

9:00 pm 1/24/2012 FRONS24WN Tower Theatre Salt Lake City Available

5:30 pm 1/25/2012 FRONS25PE Prospector Square Theatre Park City Available

6:15 pm 1/28/2012 FRONS282E Holiday Village Cinema 2 Park City Waitlist Only

Website for Film Festival: http://www.sundance.org/festival/