Even before there was a state called North Carolina, this region’s commercial lifeblood flowed through the Neuse River, a body formed by a confluence of the Flat and Eno rivers in northern Durham County before emptying into the Pamlico Sound.

Once home to ancient Native American settlements, the river’s basin remains a wellspring for North Carolina’s agricultural and livestock industries. The state’s first capital (New Bern) was chosen for its riparian locale, and the Neuse’s basin also serves as the cradle for our present-day capital. Today, these once and current capitals are also homes to the Neuse River foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving this fertile waterway through education, investigation and public involvement. The foundation supports two Riverkeeper programs, consisting primarily of agents stationed along the Upper Neuse in Raleigh and the Lower Neuse in New Bern who are responsible for patrolling and protecting the health of the river.

Last year, the foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary by sponsoring its first Riverkeeper Film Festival. The festival returns to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and Museum of History this weekend with a program of short- and feature-length films focusing on the theme of nature and humankind’s place in it.

The festival was the brainchild of Jackie Miller, the foundation’s program assistant. “The Raleigh Riverkeeper program was looking for a way to become more visible in the Raleigh area,” says Miller, who has a background in photography and worked a short stint at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies years ago. “We felt that a film festival would not only be a unique way for an environmental organization to reach out, but could also tap into the artistic and educational opportunities available in this community.”

Highlights of the daylong festivalto take place this Saturday, Nov. 11include City of Mermaids (6:40 p.m., N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences), a fascinating short film about the rise and fall of an aging Florida water park eclipsed by Disney and now struggling to survive. Also, Rediscovering the Map (6:30 p.m., N.C. Museum of History) follows the efforts by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon composer Tan Dun to compose and perform a symphony in his native Chinese province of Hunan.

Of particular interest is a special program at the Museum of History beginning at 8:10 p.m. The Neuse Riverkeepers will give a brief presentation, including a virtual tour filmed during their recent three-week journey down the Neuse. This is followed by three films: Too Big for Our Ditches, the product of an N.C. State student term project by Laurie Barnes, Jenny James and Roselyn Whitney, which is a video overview of pollution sources and the work of an NCSU lab and the Riverkeepers in the Neuse River basin; River Lab, directed by native North Carolinian Charles Clemmons, which shares the story of a grassroots program to bring river basin environmental education to school children; and Building a Meadowlands, about the battle between commercial and environmental interests over an effort to build a mega-mall on a 587-acre tract of wetlands in New Jersey.

The N.C. Museum of History is located at 5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh; the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences is located at 11 W. Jones St., Raleigh. Festival passes are $10 and can be purchased at the door or at www.neuseriver.org/filmfestival. For more information, contact the foundation at 856-1180.