Since 2004, underwater filmmaker and Santa Barbara native Mike deGruy has been selecting visually stunning, award-winning nature films to entertain and wow film fest audiences.
“You’re taking a bit of a chance if you do what I’m doing with this Reel Nature thing,” deGruy said in a 2008 interview, “which is put natural history films on a big screen for a feature film audience. So I need to make sure of a couple things: one is that I pick good films. Two, give [attendees] something that they can’t possibly get on television. And that is the filmmakers discussing it. So I have a Q&A with the filmmakers following all of these screenings.”
And so it is, once again, that the SBIFF Reel Nature programs are as stellar a line up as ever.
Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist: In this exciting — and often wryly funny — offering, filmmaker Peter Brown documents the career of eco-pirate Captain Paul Watson, who has spent the past 30 years confronting “environmental bad guys” who partake in illegal fishing, whaling, and killing of marine animals. Whether or not you agree with Watson’s “aggressive non-violence” tactics — which include throwing stink bombs and ramming ships — it’s impossible not to applaud the results of his vigilante efforts.
Bohemia: A Year in the Wetlands: In the Middle Ages, monks living in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) took a swampland and created 500 artificial ponds to be used as carp fisheries. Four centuries later and not only are carp still thriving, but vast oak forests have grown around the waters providing a safe haven for myriad wildlife. Witness the four seasons in this serene, visually stunning film.
The Zambezi: This two-part documentary follows the Zambezi River from its source — a shallow wetland 4,900 feet about sea level in north-western Zambia — until it splinters into a delta at the Indian Ocean. The river, which alternates from snaking to flood plains to whitewater in the gorges below Victoria Falls, slices across southern Africa holding humans and animals captive to its lifesource. The beautiful film shows how the indigenous people and a variety of wild creatures lives are dictated by the Zambezi’s ebb and flow.
The Last of the Lions: Actor Jeremy Irons narrates this saga about the brutal life of a lioness in Botswana. “Dark places in Africa [have] become the last refuge for one of our most iconic animals,” says Irons, where “life is lived by tooth and claw.” This sentiment is confirmed in the first 10 minutes of the film when the lioness battles for her life against an intruding pride, her mate is mortally mutilated, a crocodile kills one of her cubs, and then she and her remaining two cubs are surrounded by a raging wildfire. The film is beautifully shot and effectively conveys the harshness and beauty of life in Africa.