During this year’s Symposium, SHR premiered the final version of “Genus Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve,” a 17-minute feature film three years in the making. Featuring interviews with the Reserve’s founders Betty and Robert Balentine, landscape architect Gary Smith, and consultants, artisans, and key partners, the film the story of how the Reserve was created.
As the film’s title implies, thoughtful design, reverence for nature and respect for the land in its natural state were the guiding principles upheld by the Reserve’s design team. The film informs viewers about the Reserve’s past, present, and future, highlighting milestones in the Reserve’s development. Founder Robert Balentine hopes “viewers will gain a sense of the majesty of God’s creation and the role man can play creating a manipulated landscape to further evoke an emotional response to that creation.” For many, the film is an opportunity to see a window into the hearts and minds of those who chose to be a part of SHR since its inception as they wrote their signature on the land.
An overarching theme of the film is conservation; the need to not only preserve wild places like the land on which SHR is founded, but also to restore balance to the health of ecosystems threatened by activities of man. The organization’s conservation-based mission is featured in the film’s spotlight on SHR’s activities to help restore health to endangered high-elevation Spruce-Fir forests of Western North Carolina. Through its involvement with the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, SHR actively contributes to conservation of the Spruce-Fir forests by growing Red Spruce in its Nursery Complex and partnering with federal and state agencies to plant spruce seedlings on public lands.
Through the film’s carefully selected interviews, cinematography and moving musical score, the Reserve’s founders and creators invite viewers to join in the Reserve’s mission in conservation today and tomorrow. Further, Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks notes the video serves to allow “free media to cultivate the story of SHR to a wider audience. We are by design a remote location and not for the faint of heart in visiting a garden. Therefore, this video creates a window to the heart and soul of SHR and how it began and continues to flourish today.”
The film can be viewed on SHR’s YouTube page at the following location: https://youtu.be/vebvTM50mPk.