BLUE Ocean Film Festival’s featured flicks run to the horizon. Here are several to prioritize.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
There are more than 100 films ready to be spooled up – or, actually, inserted in Blue Ray projectors – in the ocean-deep line-up of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit. They’ll be divvied up into 25 categories like music video, theatrical documentary and marine animal behavior. Big film news arrived via the Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, who announced that James Cameron will, indeed, be among the ocean luminaries attending the events.
But the real stars of this constellation of scientists, biologists, divers, conservationists, filmmakers and photographers are… the films. They are the artistic and technical means by which BLUE delivers the appreciation of the Earth’s oceans. Navigating the films will take diligence and selectivity. Here are some promising ones:
The beauty of indulgent aerial shots weren’t lost on local marine photographer, filmmaker and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Chair Bob Talbot (Dolphins: The Ride, Free Willy, Oceanmen: Extreme Dive). His film, Sanctuary in the Sea: A Gulf of the Farallones Experience, starts off a mixed bag of historical and background messages punctuated with commentary – not a luxury for a 17-minute short.
Our narrator, a middle-aged boat captain, says he used to be a partying “surf rat” before he was introduced to Bodega Bay, and work as a diver. He fished abundant sea urchin, a business that was “all about harvesting as much as you could.” At the nine-minute mark, the film is half done and thus far we’ve got a cliche dream sequence, meandering guitar music, copious shots of his boat skimming the waters off San Francisco, and beautiful-but-not-very-revealing shots of underwater sea creatures. The aerials of ocean surf hold the attention, though, until the plot turn comes: Our protagonist, who once saw the ocean as a vast resource to be used and profited from, faces a moral dilemma and is changed by it. When we see what changed him – amateur underwater video footage superimposed on professional footage – it’s a revelation with the power to carry the audience through his change too.
Among the slated films of the ocean sports category are two surfing films (though surfing films crop up also in the people and the sea category with Surfing and Sharks, about surfers off the coast of South Africa, in the most shark-populated coastline in the world). FinnSurf takes a fascinating turn into unique waters. Its blurb reads:
Glassy waves, swaying palm trees, and a careless lifestyle, exotic and warm. The vision most have of surfing. Now, it’s snowing and you’re covered with frost. Temperatures are below zero. You’re now in Finland.
But 12 Miles North: The Nick Gabaldon Story, directed and executive produced by Jason Cohn and presented by the big money of Nike, is an even rarer story, and a sweet surprise, in that it looks at a component of surfing that’s rarely seen: race. It’s a music-propelled biography of Gabaldon, a black surfer who challenged racial segregation in 1950s Los Angeles, though his life (but apparently not his legacy) was cut short when he drowned in 1951. There are interviews with members of the Black Surfing Association, one of whom says, “In the ’40s, it would have been problematic for a black man with a surfboard to get from Santa Monica to Malibu.” But once there, a surfing photographer says, one’s acceptance came with their skill. And Gabaldon, apparently, had it. “Beautiful, graceful style,” says one interviewee. “It was as if the wave and the surfer became one thing. Time stopped for him.”
Cannery Row’s own Sea Studios and its narrative-driven documentary, Otter 501, is enjoying a resurgence in the lead-up to BLUE, propelled by the focus of Sea Otter Week. The Elkhorn Slough Foundation is commemorating the week, according to its Facebook, on Sunday, Sept. 23, with a kayak tour from Kirby park to Moss Landing, co-led by Otter 501 star Katie Pofahl and Elkhorn Slough specialist Ron Eby. Then they’ll screen Otter 501 at 5pm and again at 7:30pm at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve for a $5 donation (register at www.elkhornslough.org). The film shows up again at BLUE.
For those who were dismayed by the revelations of The Cove, BLUE’s 2009 Best of Fest winner, Discovery Channel’s Whale Wars TV series, which premiered on Animal Planet four years ago, showed a bad-ass faction of marine mammal conservation that must have felt cathartic. It documented the cantankerous and dangerous tactics of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s fight to disrupt Japanese whaling and bluefin poaching, including ramming ships, boarding them and throwing butyric acid stink bombs aboard. This was orchestrated from a ship christened the Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) from an international crew of 42 well-equipped rebel pirates (their emblem is a skull and “crossbones” of a trident and a shepherd’s staff). It’s exciting stuff. A confrontational approach to conservation than the more methodical (and probably more effective) increments of persuasion and political action. BLUE has an episode queued up to get the adrenaline going.
BLUE Ocean Film Festival runs Sept. 24-30. See schedule at www.BlueOceanFilmFestival.org