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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

New Film Examines Research Around Cyanobacteria And ALS

Jackie and Jim Heltz's film "Lake Effect" examines recent Dartmouth-HItchcock research around cyanobacteria and ALS.
Jackie Heltz
Jackie and Jim Heltz's film "Lake Effect" examines recent Dartmouth-HItchcock research around cyanobacteria and ALS. The fim is being shown as part of the 2018 Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.

In the last few years, researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have been looking into a possible connection between cyanobacteria from blue-green algae blooms and the neurodegenerative disease ALS.

The research is preliminary, so any possible correlation is not proven. But the studies — and the issue of algae blooms in northern New England — are the subject of a new documentary by Jackie Heltz, a filmmaker who grew up in Williston.

Hetlz made the film Lake Effect with her father Jim, and it screens this weekend as part of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.

Heltz spoke to VPR's Henry Epp. Listen to their full conversation above.

“There is a lot that we do know about cyanobacteria, blue-green algae,” Heltz said. “It is undeniably not good for you, and not good for your pets, and not good for where you live. … Part of the angle and aim was how not good is it for you?”

Heltz said she agrees with Vermont health officials that the research is still preliminary, “but I don’t think that it should be dismissed,” she said. “I mean, at the end of the day I’d rather it not be so — I don’t want the lakes and ponds and rivers that we love here to be hurting people. But I think if the direction we need to move in is a mass cleanup for the sake of ourselves and our environment, we might as well entertain that."

As for working on a film with her father, Heltz said the experience was "beneficial" — but also challenging at times.

“We are a generation apart, so there’s definitely kind of a collaboration but also sometimes a collide in simple things like filming styles or editing styles.”

Heltz’s film will be shown Sunday, Aug. 26 at 1 part of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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