‘Bidder 70’ documentary screening in Grand Junction June 15 | PostIndependent.com

‘Bidder 70’ documentary screening in Grand Junction June 15

Sharon Sullivan

In the closing days of the Bush administration in 2008, former University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher disrupted a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction in Salt Lake City by placing bogus bids to protest the leasing of lands surrounding U.S. National Parks. He was arrested and eventually sentenced to two years in prison and fined $10,000.

According to a 2011 Salt Lake Tribune article, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson admitted “the offense itself… wasn’t that bad,” and that he may have avoided prison if, while awaiting trial, he had not continued speaking out that civil disobedience was justified in fighting climate change.

DeChristopher is the subject of an award-winning documentary titled “Bidder 70” with a screening in Grand Junction set for Saturday, June 15.

Telluride filmmakers Beth and George Gage learned of the story after reading a local newspaper article about the case.

“My husband and I both thought it was an interesting story, and a week or so later, met Tim at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival” where DeChristopher had been invited as a guest in January 2009.

The film shows how DeChristopher disrupted the proceedings and ends with his sentencing and being cuffed and taken directly to prison from the courtroom.

DeChristopher and other environmentalists had protested the auction, saying that the previous administration was rushing the sales and energy development without proper reviews, and thus the auction was illegal.

In the film, then-Secretery of Interior Ken Salazar agrees that because of the parcel’s proximity to landscapes of national significance and the need for review, he said he told the BLM that the auction be declared null and void. DeChristopher, who by then was 29, was still sent to a Colorado federal prison where he spent nearly two years. He was released in April and is currently on a river rafting trip with family.

The film has won multiple awards including Best American Film at the Traverse City Film Festival and the Moving Mountains Prize at the Mountain Film festival in Telluride. The documentary was an official selection at the Human Rights Watch film festival, and on Monday, it was honored at the San Francisco Green Film Festival, bringing the total number of awards to 20, Gage said.

The film showing is being sponsored by the Sierra Club, Western Colorado Congress and Grand Valley Peace and Justice.

Following the film showing, there will be a discussion with guests Jake Hanson and Ashley Sanders, close friends and supporters of DeChristopher, and members of Peaceful Uprising — a group DeChristopher helped form.

DeChristopher’s plan is to attend Harvard Divinity School in the fall to become a Unitarian Universalist minister, Hanson said.

“When people are willing to abdicate their moral authority to the powers that be, historically, that’s when atrocities happen,” said Hanson, which is DeChristopher’s motivation for wanting to attend divinity school, he added.

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