By Anne Kyle
May 17, 2004
Traveling half-way around the world, Regina film documentary
producer Susan Risk chronicles the co-operative efforts
between Canada and China to preserve the threatened grasslands
of Inner Mongolia.
"I was trying to get the message across that there is no quick
fix to environmental problems of this scale, it takes all of
us working together to make a difference," said Risk.
"I hope with this documentary I can create an awareness of the
global issues of climate change and soil degradation and a
greater understanding of what people are doing elsewhere to
protect the environment and the impact that work has on
everyone," she said.
In late 2000, Risk's companies Sure Fire Production and Live
Wire Video Productions partnered with the Prairie Farm
Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) to develop the idea for
Grassland Transfer, which will air at 9 p.m. May 25 on SCN.
It took four years to pull the funding together and complete
the 48-minute documentary with English subtitles, which was
shot in Canada and China, primarily in the Inner Mongolian
Risk follows plant ecologist Jeff Thorpe, who is a member of a
team of Canadians working with Chinese agricultural experts
over the past five years trying to preserve the ecosystem and
fragile grasslands while developing a sustainable agricultural
model for the Mongolian sheep and cattle herders of the
In 2001, Risk traveled to China to scout out the location and
do some preliminary research for her documentary. She returned
a second time to complete the filming of the PFRA project,
accompanying Thorpe on his three-week journey into the Inner
The biggest hurdle was putting together the funding for the
project, Risk said, explaining her company invested
substantial money of its own in the documentary.
"I spent three years researching the project," she said. This
enabled Risk to provide global scientific and technical
information about drought, desertification and conservation
practices to renew the ailing, fragile grasslands of Inner
while offering viewers a glimpse of the rich tapestry of
images of the land, the people and their culture.
Having worked in international development with CUSO for 12
years, Risk looked beyond the environmental issues to the
impact this project had on the life of the traditional
herders, whose livelihood is dependent on the sustainability
of the grasslands.
"I would love to go back to China. I just love that country,
the food, and traveling there and especially the people, who
are so warm and hospitable and helpful. I made some good
friends," Risk said, explaining while filming her documentary
she also shot footage for PFRA training videos.
Risk founded her company Live Wire Video Productions Inc. in
1988 and has produced a variety of documentaries exploring
social and environmental issues both in Saskatchewan and
Her documentaries have tackled issues such as elder care,
escaping domestic abuse, women working in the male-dominated
building trades, pioneering women on the Saskatchewan
parklands and a more lighthearted music video featuring Noelle
Hall and the Stinky Sneaker Band.