Friday, August 27, 2010
In the middle of Sara Nelson's set in which she strummed warm acoustic guitar songs and played keys evocatively while singing earnestly, she entreated a plentiful Golden State Theatre audience to reduce plastic bag use, saying, "I bring my own bag to the store."
Advice that was appreciated, if perhaps redundant before a BLUE Ocean Film Festival audience probably mostly comprised of oceanographers, photographers and filmmakers, scientists and other sea-loving folks.
(Note: For the latest updates, it is suggested attendees go to the BLUE website.)
After Nelson's performance came brief addresses by a representative from the National Marine Sanctuaries Monterey Bay, BLUE co-founder Debbie Kinder, then the keynote presentation by National Geographic underwater photographer David Doubilet, who began his talk by commemorating his colleague, Wes Sikes, who died just a few weeks ago while diving.
He then projected his own innovative and brilliant photographs on the screen—displaying his signature style in which one photograph captures the air-breating world above the water and the submerged world beneath the water line—while talking casually with the audience about the festival ("We are here to talk about filming and o-rings and hope..."), the underwater films and photos ("The images we make...of beauty, wistfulness, depth, viciousness...have to wake the world up") and his own work, including images shot in Japan, the Bahamas, Galapagos and the Red Sea.
"It is the best job in the world swimming underwater," he told the audience from a dais on stage. "It's joyous. You are floating. Nothing from the air side of the planet can reach us. So we just have to be there."
As is the case with many of the films and panels, festival participants have focused on niche segments of the life of oceans, from Southern Louisiana fishing culture in the documentary SoLa (which was screened with a filmmaker Q&A across the block at Osio Cinemas just prior to Disneynature's OCEANS) to an Italian/Mediterranean fishing mini-film festival at Monterey History and Maritime Museum that overlapped with OCEANS and SoLa.
Doubilet focused in on eels, saying that scientists know little about the lives of the overlooked creatures. At conclusion, Doubilet was warmly applauded, then festival co-founder Kinder spoke briefly before giving the stage to OCEANS executive producer Don Hahn, who said that a portion of ticket sales form EARTH and OCEANS went toward preserving wildlife habitats.
Then he made way for the night's main feature. But first, previews: Opening on Earth Day 2011 will be Disneynature's next feature, African Cats, which seems to chronicle a story about a rival lion family and cheetah family living in competitively close proximity. Cool memorable shot: a lion and an alligator facing off.
Then OCEANS began. And it's reliably impressive. Helicopter shots zoom over roiling seas, the camera swims with dolphins and sea lions, goes extreme close-up on tiny sea creatures and wide on expressive whales, it dives with corcormants attacking a fish colony herded into a ball by dolphins and feasted upon by sharks and whales. Pierce Brosnan narrates in poetic and sparse prose, and several times the film invoked gasps from the audience, including a shot in which a strange looking shark protruded what looked like little legs from its body. Bombastic music pushed a lot of the action, which was real enough to satiate adults while pulling back from the gorier side of nature, in deference to children.
The well-attended screening/keynote gave preference to industry and festival pass holders, but the rest of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit boasts more events than most people will be able to attend. Pick up programs (but check online for the latest) and souvenirs, including the increasingly-ubiquitious "Jacques Cousteau" red beanie caps, at BLUE headquarters at Portola Plaza, where a an expo, two-person submersible, an eco-car, photos and a diving tank are on hand.