We had good luck this past weekend, at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, where they screened both TERRA ANTARCTICA and the brand-new WHAT WOULD DARWIN THINK?
TERRA was given the festival’s “Grand Prize for Best Film” (the Jury: Jon Bowermaster takes us with stunning images on his sailing boat and kayak right into the beauty of the seventh continent. A place, not many of us will ever have the chance to see. He delivers a subtle message about climate change as we visit various research stations. The funding acquired for this film shows in professional visuals and a round delivery.)
And DARWIN was given the prize as “Best Environmental Film” (the Jury: The message is clear in this film stuffed with beautiful shots of all the famous Galapagos species such as the turtles, iguanas and marine life. Simply too many people are pressuring the 3% of the island that is accessible for the public. Tourists and the people depending or co-depending on tourism “visiting” nature to death.)
I’ve obviously seen the films many times now, in small editing rooms, various computer screens and on big screens and each time out I pick up small things I hadn’t seen previously. More interesting each time out is watching and listening to the audience, getting a sense of what they respond to in each, what they laugh at, what they moan at, when it is that they start looking at their watches.
While the two films are quite different, set in two very different environments, they share one common theme: Both are pristine environments threatened in part due to man’s rapacious desire to put his/her footprints … everywhere. In both places booms in tourism have both benefited and put at risk environments that we love. The challenge for the very near future is to figure out how to both protect these special places while at the same time making them just accessible enough that visitors can come, see and return home as ambassadors for protecting them.
This coming weekend both films show at the prestigious San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, at Pier 39 on the Embarcadero. (TERRA at 1 p.m. on Saturday, DARWIN at 4 p.m. on Saturday.)
Spent a fantastic-if-occasionally-soggy weekend in Nevada City, California, roaming from venue to venue at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, watching new films and re-watching a couple recent classics. We also showed two films – TERRA ANTARCTICA and the ‘premiere’ of WHAT WOULD DARWIN THINK? Man v. Nature in the Galapagos – to great response. My favorites were two: THE AGE OF STUPID and PICKIN’ AND TRIMMIN.’ The former, by British director Fanny Armstrong, is a look back at 2008 from the vantage point of 2050. The big question in retrospect becomes “What were you guys thinking, to have acknowledged environmental ills but done nothing-to-little to stop or cure them?” Thus, the Age of Stupid. (The line itself is spoken by a Louisiana oilman who loses his home to Katrina.)
‘PICKIN’ is a much smaller film, a short about the goings on at a simple North Carolina barber shop where musicians also gather to play (mandolins, guitars, violins) on a regular basis. The wry comments of the pair of barbers who host the shop – interviewed on a bench in front of their shop, waving to passersby as they gab – suggest that in some parts of the world little has changed in the past fifty years which in this case is a good thing. The focus is on community, and a weekly ear-lifting haircut.
I also saw for a second time the moving film about dolphin slaughtering in Japan (THE COVE) and a bio-pic of Sea Shepherd chief Paul Watson, (PIRATE FOR THE SEA) amazing for its collection of archival footage of Paul over the past thirty-plus years. While you may argue Paul and Sea Shepherd’s tactics, you cannot contend with his commitment: He’s been espousing the same message since the mid-1970s, to any cameraman or reporter who will listen!
Tonight, we’re off to the Sonoma Environmental Film Festival, to show our films again and hopefully to see a few new ones.
On Tuesday, September 29, in Washington D.C., National Geographic will be screening our award-winning, new, big, fun, informative, high-def film – TERRA ANTARCTICA, Rediscovering the Seventh Continent.
This National Geographic-sponsored exploration is a one-of-a-kind look at Antarctica from a unique perspective – sea level.
For six weeks we explored the Antarctic Peninsula by sea kayak, sailboat, foot and small plane, observing the fast changing evolution of this most remote place. Impacted by climate change – temperatures have warmed along the Peninsula faster than anywhere on the planet during the past 50 years – this part of Antarctica is also experiencing a boom in tourism and nations fighting over who owns what as its ice slowly disappears.
Given my interest in and commitment to exploring the world’s ocean and bringing back stories from it we couldn’t ask for a better honor than to be regarded as the film “that most effectively raises awareness and increases understanding about environmental and sustainability issues facing the oceans and its inhabitants.” That is exactly our goal.
Spent a fantastic weekend in Savannah, Georgia – where I’d never been before – watching the very best films out there today about whales-sharks & dolphins, a variety focused on David v. Goliath battles between oil/mining companies and indigenous fishermen and a few powerful tear-jerkers illustrating man’s inhumanity towards the sea and its creatures. After four days at the first-ever Blue Ocean Film Festival I couldn’t feel more enthused and committed and simultaneously evermore concerned about the issues facing the world’s ocean.
Accompanied by some of the leading lights in the ocean/environmental movement – Sylvia Earle, Celine and Fabien Cousteau, Carl Safina – it was incredible to spend a few days mingling with the choir and comparing notes about the state of the seas. While it would be easy to fall into a pessimistic chant – the ocean is warming, plastic in it is mounting, fish are disappearing faster than anyone could have predicted – it was heartening to hear just how hopeful and optimistic the gathering crowd could be. I think that optimism derives from a crowd that truly loves the ocean – truly – especially that feeling of diving into the blue whether hot or cold or simply standing on the beach staring for hours at a time at that thin line on the horizon where blue meets blue.
It was the first time I’d shown our just-finished TERRA ANTARCTICA, Rediscovering the Seventh Continent. Previously only a small handful of editors and friends had seen the finished, one-hour film about our 2008 expedition along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. To show it was great on two levels: To see all that beautiful high definition video displayed at nearly life size on a giant screen and for the extremely complimentary comment afterwards.
With great serendipity, on its first screening the judges apparently regarded it one of the best. More than 200 films were entered into the festival’s competition and 50 were screened over the weekend. Only six were chosen to “compete” for the “best of festival” prize. TERRA was included on the short list, both a great honor and tremendous surprise.
That short list was prestigious and heavy: A $5.4 million IMAX film (“Wild Ocean”), Jean-Michel Cousteau’s most recent (“Call of the Killer Whale”), this year’s ‘Audience Favorite’ at Sundance (“The Cove”), a 21-time festival winner (“Saving Luna”) and one from the BBC and David Attenborough (“The Great Tide”). Plus, TERRA ANTARCTICA, a unique look at the health of Antarctica’s peninsula and its ice at a decidedly important moment in history.
In the end, “The Cove” was named “Best” overall; TERRA ANTARCTICA won the prize for best “Ocean Issues” film, a perfect fit. The definition of the category was “the film that most effectively raises awareness and increases understanding about environmental and sustainability issues facing the oceans and its inhabitants.”
Which is the most incredible honorific for my team and me; that is exactly our mission – to bring back stories about the health of the world’s ocean and the lives of people who depend on it. Period. While cliché, it was fantastic to be included in such high-end company and I encourage everyone to do anything they can to see “The Cove” and “Wild Ocean.” (Though my two personal faves of the festival? “Red Gold” and “Dugong and Din” ……). I’ll keep you posted as to when and where TERRA ANTARCTICA will show next.
Hello from Savannah, Georgia where we ‘premiered’ our new Antarctica film (TERRA ANTARCTICA, Rediscovering the Seventh Continent) last night at the brand new, very cool Blue Ocean Film Festival. It was the first time I’d seen all that beautiful high def video we shot along the Peninsula on a big screen and it looked … fantastic. Especially watching those ten-story icebergs roll.
By great coincidence the finalists for “Best of Festival” were announced last night and TERRA is on the short list, which is both a great honor and tremendous surprise.
The judges screened more than 200 films and are showing 50 this weekend. They chose six to compete for the “best of” prize and it’s a prestigious list: A $5 million IMAX film (“Wild Ocean”), Jean-Michel Cousteau’s most recent (“Call of the Killer Whale”), this year’s Sundance favorite (“The Cove”), a 21-time festival winner (“Saving Luna”) and one from the BBC’s Nature series (“The Great Tide”). Plus, TERRA ANTARCTICA ….
The winner is to be announced Saturday night, by none other than the queen of the deep, Sylvia Earle … (which is ironic since I have tickets that night to see Steve Earle, never imagining that our big, beautiful Antarctica film would make any kind of short list). So … stay tuned!
Watch the TERRA ANTARCTICA trailer.