Renowned underwater filmmaker Mike deGruy has been charged with bringing outstanding nature films to SBIFF since the Reel Nature sidebar was added in 2004. Each year, the Santa Barbaran manages to find visually stunning films that cover myriad topics. This year is no exception.
The heavy hitter this year is The Cove. Released in theaters in 2009, the film already has captivated a large audience with its shocking story of dolphin slaughter in the Japanese seaside town of Taiji. The cove where the murder takes place is so tightly guarded that the film crew was forced to use guerrilla tactics to place hidden cameras in the rocks around the cove and underwater. They achieved this with the help of free divers, a military specialist, and the prop team at Industrial Light & Magic. The film is state-of-art and deeply poignant. Audience warning: Parts of the film are difficult to watch, and even prompted spontaneous sobbing from this viewer.
A more uplifting story comes from the mean streets of New York City. Well, the well-heeled area of 5th Avenue, to be accurate. The Legend of Pale Male is an endearing story about a red-tail hawk that alit in a tree in Central Park one day in 1991 and decided to make the city his home. Filmmaker Frederic Lilien documents Pale Male’s life and introduces us to the people who find grace and salvation in the raptor.
Other offerings include Creatures of the Deep, which focuses on the lives of marine invertebrates (such a jellyfish, sea urchins, and squid) from around the globe; Green, the award-winning film about a female orangutan’s end caused by destruction of the rainforest; and Reptiles and Amphibians, which captures the life of a solitary Komodo dragon that preys on water buffalo, a lizard nicknamed “Jesus Christ” that can walk on water, a pebble toad that free falls down a rock face to escape being eaten by a tarantula, and other harrowing reptile adventures.