Offerings from this year’s Ocean Film Festival World Tour
Each year the Ocean Film Festival World Tour offers a three hour smorgasbord of ocean-themed films celebrated by a like-minded community of theatre-goers. While some of the short films focus on surfing and sailing, others take us into the realm of scuba divers, snorkelers and the marine life they encounter.
The seven films featured in 2022 hail from around the globe (with two produced in Australia). All are inspirational, some through their conservation messages, others through their testament to the power of the human spirit in the face of raw nature, challenge and adversity. Below is a sneak peak at the films selected for this year’s tour which delivers the festival into over 50 cinema screenings across Australia, plus events in New Zealand and beyond.
FILM: Tiger (Shark) King
From the film’s lingering opening shots of diver Jim Abernathy caressing the snout of a tiger shark while narrating his discovery of the ‘affectionate side of sharks’, the tranquil imagery and pace of ‘The Tiger (Shark) King’ quietly challenges the Spielberg-induced ’man-eating’ stereotype. Abernathy’s approach demonstrates a unique rationale and model for shark conservation through ecotourism.
Tiger sharks, Lemon sharks and Caribbean Reef sharks are depicted calmly against a delicate soundtrack that underscores their natural role in the harmonious ecosystem of the Caribbean’s Tiger Beach, 25 miles from land. Abernathy shares a profound relationship with a 15 foot tiger shark called Emma, and his passion to ‘change fear into love’ is beautifully conveyed in this gentle, awe-inspiring film.
FILM: If You Give a Beach a Bottle
Hailing from Alaska, Max Romey’s film on the ubiquitous topic of marine debris takes a visually arresting, multi-media approach, sustaining audience engagement from start to finish. Well-worn and oft-times removed pleas to remedy the scourge of microplastics and ghost nets are given a vibrant sense of immediacy and concreteness. This short film is like the ‘concentrated cordial’ version of feature film ‘A Plastic Ocean’, each frame breathing new life into the call for individual and collective action.
The imagery and editing are bright, fast-paced and innovative, coupled with narration that makes expansive issues personal. The soundtrack is at times comedic, while at other moments serving like another delicate watercolour in the film maker’s painterly vision. The film puts the enormity of the problems caused by our modern, consumerist lifestyles into perspective, highlighting the concerted efforts needed from us all in response.
FILM: I Am Ocean: PT Hirschfield
Director Sam Riley’s depiction of underwater photographer PT Hirschfield’s long journey of cancer and marine life advocacy is structured around recurring visual motifs and metaphors. Alongside beautiful and harrowing images of the hapless stingrays his subject strives to protect, the frequent presence of dazzling but deadly blue ringed octopuses suggest the danger and mortality Hirschfield navigates, while soaring sea lions speak to the fullness of life she has determined to embrace, despite her prognosis.
The film (produced as part of the Ocean Media Institute’s ‘I Am Ocean’ series) ultimately calls on each viewer to discern what in their world needs their attention, and what active role they might play in helping to achieve better outcomes for the issues they are uniquely positioned to observe.
FILM: Wave of Change: A Low Tech Surfing Adventure
Narrator Damien Castera joins the crew of ‘floating laboratory’ catamaran Nomade des Mers (featured in the 2018 tv series of the same name), sailing along the coast of Mexico to tell the story of ‘an adventure focussed on simplicity … combining two areas of expertise: board sports and resourcefulness’. The unfolding adventure involves growing hydroponic produce with urine, salvaging and dehydrating unsold vegetables, upcycling broken surfboards using mushroom mycelium and substituting commercial products for natural ones in the crew’s quest for a slower, more organic pace of life.
What might be regarded as ‘innovation’ on the boat is often a simple return to the manual processes of past eras. The adventures of the Low Tech crew are humble yet noble and culminate in days of sun-filled surfing. The film speaks to the potential of ordinary people to live more resourcefully towards self-reliance, irrespective of their immediate context: ‘a way of viewing the world based on need and the means available.’
FILM: Normal Guys
The ‘build a boat and sail against the odds’ feature at this year’s festival belongs to ‘Normalni Kolesie’ (‘Normal Guys’). When tragedy besets the grand plans of two ordinary men from Warsaw to build a five metre yacht and embark upon a trans-Atlantic race from Portugal with minimal prior experience, the remaining dreamer must recalibrate in order to stay the course.
Together he and his new travel companion battle boredom as they face the challenges of 3,000 nautical miles unsupported, a wave that destroys the laptop they are using for navigation, and more importantly (it seems) a shortage of cigarettes. (Sub-titled)
FILM: Eyre & Sea, Baird Bay, Eyre Peninsula, SA
From the first wild, sweeping images of director Jem Creswell’s film, we are gently drawn into the intimate encounters and deep personal connections that narrator Alan Payne has with a range of marine fauna at Baird Bay (with its population of three) on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Payne hosts snorkelling tours focussed on extended interactions with dolphins and the country’s reportedly sole growing population of Australian sea lions (the rarest sea lion on earth) in their natural, shallow water environments.
There is a simplicity and purity about Payne’s approach and message: we need to ‘care for our neighbours’, whether human or animal and to give, rather than just take, when it comes to our appreciation of the ocean and its inhabitants.
Set along Portugal’s 1800 miles of rugged coastline, offering some of the biggest ocean swells in the world, we ‘tag along’ with professional surfer Alex Botelho as he surfs enormous waves that beggar belief and (arguably) common sense. Meticulous preparation is required before paddle surfing the monstrous waves, some of which are most safely taken on by surfers towed by jet skis to scale and survive their enormity. A majestic soundtrack is married to spectacular footage of the epic thrills and significant risks of masterful board riding of waves that even a cinema screen will barely contain.
The Ocean Film Festival 2022 screens in all states of Australia with cinema event dates between 1 March to 22 June.
Author: PT Hirschfield