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
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.