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Reel Nature

The Ultimate Reality Show


This is Santa Barbara-based nature filmmaker Mike deGruy’s third year curating the Reel Nature part of the fest. In addition to being an adventurous filmmaker himself (he’s planning an expedition to film the giant squid in their natural habitat), he knows everyone worth knowing. We’re fortunate he’s taken on the task, since he convinces some of the greatest nature filmmakers worldwide to bring their premieres to Santa Barbara, where they’ll also be appearing for Q&A sessions to accompany the showings.

While it is unfair to ask any curator his favorite films, or what shouldn’t be missed, deGruy admitted to a few he’s particularly excited to present. Two films just produced as part of the new BBC series Planet Earth will have their U.S. premieres here. DeGruy said From Pole to Pole is a “visual smorgasbord of spectacular, beautifully shot images.” Ocean Deep is another amazement, even though deGruy might be biased (he contr ibuted some footage to the project). Planet Earth features scenes shot from helicopters with completely revolutionary methods for creating nature cinematography — especially promising for the big screen.

Filmmaker Tim Liversedge sat by a Kalahari watering hole and caught a reality show in the making for Roar: Lions of the Kalahari. This IMAX-shot film will be screened in 35mm at the festival, but the real-life drama may rival any Survivor episode as lions scope out the scene and jostle for position.

Newbie feature filmmaker Lucinda Spurling took on Rare Bird about the discovery of the cahow, a bird thought to be extinct and found on a remote Bermudan island. DeGruy chose the film as much for the filmmaker’s story: “I loved the gumption, enthusiasm, and attitude of the filmmaker; I hope she’s an inspiration for younger filmmakers wondering how to make a go.”

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus doesn’t take us back in time to the last gaggle of these now-extinct birds to walk the earth. Instead, it’s a farcical look at the controversy of creationism and intelligent design versus evolution. Filmmaker and evolutionary biologist Randy Olson and his mother Muffy humorously take on the pundits. Catch the screening, because they’ll be at the Q&A and who knows what Muffy will say.

In order to show the world premiere of Gabon, the Edge of Eden, deGruy called up senior producer Keenan Smart at National Geographic. Smart will accompany this film about one of earth’s last wilderness areas.

Personally, I’m excited about Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Voyage to Kure. How is it possible to not get excited about ocean footage shot by a Cousteau? Like Gabon, Voyage has only one screening during the festival (Fri., Jan. 26).

While not on the regular fest schedule, Reel Nature includes the Field Trip to the Movies. Three thousand students will be bussed to the Lobero Theatre for the film Gadgets Galore, about the exciting ocean creatures, octopi and squid, followed by a dazzling demonstration of the art of shaping a movie with Hollywood film editor Richard Harris.

Aside from the field trip, Reel Nature screens seven films at the fest, and they’re seven films that will show us a different side of nature, our planet, and the living ocean.

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