Lost Springs is a documentary film that follows artist Margaret Ross Tolbert as she experiences a collection of freshwater Florida springs normally inaccessible due to a dam. The film explores themes of loss, wonder and experience in nature as it follows the course of a drawdown of the dam’s pool which happens every three or more years, exposing a submerged world normally hidden below the high waters of the dam. Tolbert sketches and paints scenes from this world, looks into the history of the dam and the impacted Ocklawaha River, and joins a team of local and regional experts on a boat trip upriver to witness the revealed and transient landscape and to find the lost springs of the Ocklawaha.
Lost Springs defends the uniqueness of a historic and free-flowing Ocklawaha River and the importance of this river to the state. It celebrates the wonder of Florida springs through Tolbert’s original paintings of the Ocklawaha’s springs and through a first-ever filmed cave dive of the Ocklawaha’s Tobacco Patch Springs by cave-diving experts Mark Long and Tom Morris. It explains the history of the Cross Florida Barge Canal and the environmentalists who stopped its construction, and steps back even further to highlight its significance throughout history as a free-flowing river by speaking with experts about its archaeological, paleontological and indigenous importance and even examines a cultural exploration by former President Ulysses S. Grant and artist Frank Hamilton Taylor.
This is a film that engages its audience through beauty. It was filmed in a manner to showcase the strained and damaged state of the river, but also to show the hopes and joy of those who visit during a drawdown, to show their longing to jump into the river’s springs, to show how experience in nature brings healing and connection. This film will speak to environmentalists, to artists, to historians and to Floridians and visitors that realize the benefit of water based recreation as nature intended. It will be inviting and discernible to those with little to no knowledge of the dam and river. Lost Springs provides a different perspective from typical environmental issue-oriented films. Tolbert’s enthusiasm for springs is magnetic, and personal stories from locals like Captain Erika Ritter are emotionally-charged, braiding together a powerful story with an environmental message. As such, it will provide a new and encouraging entry point for reaching an audience on environmental issues.