This is the second Ocean Film Festival, and even after such a short time, the Festival Theatre was pretty much full for this year’s collection of seven short films about ocean sport, wildlife and conservation. There is of course some wonderful photography, images and film-making too.
I am probably an odd person to review a film festival as I am not a water sports person at all. The closest I get to an ocean is maybe walking along Portobello beach and the deepest water I get into is our local swimming pool. That said, however, the conservation and protection of our oceans and the huge variants of life that inhabit them have always been a subject close to my heart and I watch with sadness as man continues to abuse and pollute both of these things for often nothing more than monetary profit.
From the seven films here there is one thing that comes through in all of them, whether they be surfers, free-divers, boat builders, six year old girls or photographers, and that is just a love and respect of the water and its immense power and life bringing bounties – whether that be food or something more spiritual.
I am not going to review every film here as the festival’s own website at www.oceanfilmfestival.com gives plenty of information on them, but a few stand out to me for completely different reasons.
The first film “The Fisherman’s son” is about Ramon Navarro who despite all odds came from a poor fishing community in Chile to become a world class surfer and now uses the voice that prominence has given him to become the focal point of an ecological battle to protect the waters of his birth from destruction by large corporations.
“The Fox of Bloody Woman Island” is, unlike many of the other films, not about the deep oceans or marine life there, but about Ulf, a man who lives 120 miles north of the Arctic circle in Norway and has pretty much forsaken commercialism to live a far poorer monetary (but to him far richer spiritual) life keeping the traditional craft of hand building small boats alive.
“Devocean” is just an amazing story of a man adapting to a new way of life caused by a broken back and his rediscovery of not himself but his connection to some spiritual force both inside and outside after his depression driven attempts at suicide failed. The fact that this film is about Bruno Hensen, a former surfer, diver, boat captain and lover of everything in the water who had his back broken as the result of a failed car hi-jacking and his journey back to spiritual and physical well being through his connection with the water, is what gives this film its place in this festival, but the message of this film from Bruno could just be played anywhere and be as effective.
“Oceanminded” is the story of Hanli Prinsloo, a former world class free-diver who has simply achieved everything possible in that sport and got a little bored with it and moved on to free dive in the oceans with sharks, manta rays, many other marine animals and of course dolphins. The fact that Hanli is free-diving and carrying no artificial aids to being underwater seems to make her not only one with the marine life but accepted by it as one of their own...they seem to see her as no threat. Hanli has now walked away from a life of competition to one of education and conservation of the waters and the marine life that she loves.
This film as well as some amazing underwater photography has some powerful messages for us all – such as the never ending amount of litter and plastic bottles (particularly water bottles) that they collect on the seashore and the message that your litter never really goes away – it comes back to you. There is also the powerful message as we see anti shark netting not only entrapping sharks but any marine life such as Manta Rays in them and questioning if these nets to protect humans in the water are the right approach at all – particularly the net protection systems of Australia and the brutal culling of sharks just to “possibly” protect humans from them. If there is one message from this film (and maybe from the whole festival), it is that the oceans of this world are not ours alone...humans are one species of many that use them and many of those species have been here on this planet far longer than us and have much more right to them. At best, we merely share a little bit of their water space with them.
Although not mentioned in this film, it is worth us all remembering that planet Earth is just a ball spinning in space. Any water on this planet is trapped in here by an atmosphere and this world is making no more of it. There is no more water now than there was at the birth of Planet Earth and if we do not stop abusing our planetary water system we will all suffer the consequences. We have no more water to make and nowhere else to go if we poison this eco-system.
Review by Tom King