“Witch a Well,” a five-minute film about retired Yakima Valley apple grower Jim Cline’s sideline as a well dowser, will premiere Monday at the Seattle International Film Festival.
The film, by Mercer Island filmmaker Nikki Mitha, was selected as part of SIFF’s “Destination Northwest” short-film collection and will be screened along with eight other shorts. It details Cline’s supposed ability to find suitable wells using divination, or water witching, a scientifically unproven method by which people detect groundwater using a “divining rod” or forked stick.
Mitha, who said she was skeptical at first, heard about Cline’s abilities through her mother who was in a gardening class with Cline’s daughter. After watching him locate a well on her parents’ property, Mitha was won over. She also became fascinated by the relationship between his water-finding ability and aging.
“It’s a pretty incredible extra-sensory skill,” Mitha said. “But at the same time, as he’s aging, he’s losing some of his normal sensory capabilities.”
The film explores that dichotomy through a series of interviews with Cline at his home and footage of him water witching in the arid Yakima Valley landscape.
If you miss it in Seattle on Monday, it will eventually be available more widely, Mitha said. After its run through the festival circuit, she plans to organize a screening in the Yakima area.