In 1974, Vassar wrote and directed Replenish the Earth for the Rock Creek Park Nature Center in Washington, DC. Like most of Vassar’s films, Replenish the Earth was ahead of its time, advocating for everyday activities like ridesharing, recycling and water conservation, long before sustainability was even a word.
Vassar’s first feature documentary, Generation on the Wind (1980) follows a group of young environmentalists, artists and backyard mechanics as they build a windmill to generate electricity on a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts. The film was nominated for an Academy Award. River in Disguise (1986) was the first film calling for the restoration of the long lost Los Angeles River and received five Emmy Awards. Canyon Consort (1987) traces the Paul Winter Consort on their musical journey through the Grand Canyon.
Spirit of Yosemite (2001) is the destination film that Vassar wrote and directed for Yosemite National Park. It was honored as “Best Special Venue Program” at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and presented for two consecutive years at the Cannes Film Festival as an “Outstanding Achievement in Digital Cinema.” Since opening at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center in 2001, the film has screened more than 60,000 times with an estimated audience of well over one-million people.
Save Our History – Yellowstone (2003) is a one-hour special for the History Channel that examines Yellowstone’s current challenges set against the background of the park’s history. Discover Hetch Hetchy (2006), an award-winning film hosted and narrated by Harrison Ford, served as the centerpiece for the Environmental Defense Fund campaign to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Vassar’s most recent film, California Forever (2012), which he wrote, directed and produced with Sally Kaplan, is a PBS television special that tells the story of California’s magnificent state parks from 1864 to the present.
Vassar will also screen clips from Conspiracy of Extremes; a feature documentary which he and his partner Sally Kaplan are currently producing. The immersive documentary is a love song for one of the most forlorn and misunderstood regions in the world. Rather than a worthless and barren ‘wasteland,’ the desert will be portrayed as a wonderland teeming with remarkable life.