Oceans cover 80 percent of Mother Earth and contain many of the true last frontiers for exploration and discovery that our planet has to offer. With that comes a responsibility to keep them intact and conserve their pelagic resources while we revel in their boundless energy. And in that spirit, we welcome this weekend’s fourth annual Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival, which boasts a diverse throng of shorts and feature-length documentaries revealing epic close encounters with apex predators, the world’s best wave riders, exploration from a seat of a kayak, and the ocean’s largest threat: us. It’s conservation filmmaking to the core, and each film will undoubtedly force an awareness throughout the audience about why we desperately need thriving oceans.

“This year’s festival is by far and away the biggest year yet,” said Art Phillipe, the film fest’s director. “We’re hoping to have all the filmmakers in attendance.”

For the first time ever, the festival, which used to be a one-night affair, is running the entire weekend, from Friday, October 19, through Sunday, October 21. The festival is a competitive filmmaking event designed to attract the finest and most unique films to Santa Barbara for our viewing pleasure. Categories include Ocean Adrenaline, Marine Conservation and Natural History, Ocean Travel, and Ocean Family. One of those films is the West Coast premiere of Sharkwater, a documentary that’s already won numerous awards at other acclaimed film festivals. Sharkwater kicks off the festival on Friday night at the Arlington Theatre. (See a longer article about the film on page here.) “It’s probably one of the most intense conservation films in some time,” continued Phillipe. “It’s got a lot of legs. The storyline is awesome and it’s getting a lot of national and international press.”

Here’s a preview of what else to expect at the S.B. Ocean Film Festival 2007:

Requiem, by Jen Groark (40 minutes)

This conservation-fueled flick begins with Groark recalling her first encounter with a shark. She then embarks on a worldwide effort to thwart the misconceptions of the ocean’s foremost predator. Beautiful cinematography captures Groark diving in the Bahamas with bull sharks-one of the most aggressive sharks in the world-as well as with reef, tiger, and lemon sharks.

Conrad Limbaugh and the Sharks of Clipperton Island, by Mary Lynn Price (5 minutes)

The pelagic crag jutting off Cabo San Lucas-aka Clipperton Island-was the site of two epic shark dives by the late Conrad Limbaugh in 1956 and 1958. The first diving officer for Scripps Institute in San Diego, Limbaugh found Clipperton to be quite the hotspot for sharks. Price retraces those epic dives only to discover there are more longlines lacing the reefs than sharks patrolling the waters.

WAVES an Elegy, by Cody Westheimer (5 minutes)

Taking place along the Ellwood bluffs in Goleta, Westheimer recalls the many memorable daytrips he enjoyed with his late father, Dr. Eric Westheimer.

The Jurassic Journey, by John Dutton (8 minutes)

This is the first time the work to save the endangered leatherback turtle has been recorded on film. Shot from the Monterey Peninsula, a GPS unit is affixed to the shell of a leatherback turtle, monitoring its travels for 616 days. The first nine months shows the leatherback swimming from Monterey to Papua, the last major nesting region in the world for leatherbacks.

Ambassadors of the Environment, by David Cheney (6 minutes)

Ocean Futures Society is the brainchild of Jean-Michel Cousteau, and is inspired by the legacy of his late father and world renowned ocean explorer, Jacques Cousteau. Ocean Futures works with children around the globe to educate and inspire the magic of the ocean, living by its creed, “If you save the ocean, you save yourself.”

Two Swimmers, by Steve Sander (23 minutes)

This is the gripping story of Tim Denyer’s quest to swim the English Channel from England to the French coastline. Mark Rickhuss is Denyer’s coach, mentor, and friend, who trains, motivates, and supports him every stroke of the way for the two years of preparation, and the 12 hours and 40 minutes it takes Denyer to complete his goal.

Labor of Love, by Firefly Films (13 minutes)

This follows the highs and lows of a lobster fishing family along the rugged northeastern shores of the East Coast. Since the 1880s, generations of the Dunbar family have endured frigid seas, perilous storms, and, more recently, tighter restrictions on a dwindling way of life.

Down the Barrel, by ESPN (93 minutes)

It’s good to be a surfer, as this flick will attest. From the feeling of simply riding a good wave to the ultra-competitive drama of the 2006 Foster’s ASP World Tour title chase, no matter what level of surfing one strives to achieve, it still boils down to speed, power, and the exhilaration one gains by riding a green wall of water. Interviews with Kalani Robb, Joel Parkinson, Rob Machado, and eight-time world champ Kelly Slater pinpoint surfing’s energy, soul, and triumph. And inspiration abounds watching Bethany Hamilton and Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz overcoming the odds to surf again.

Sharkwater, by Rob Stewart (89 minutes)

See feature here.

Oceans 8, by Jon Bowermaster (each film averages 30minutes)

Kayaking is one of the best ways to travel and explore remote corners of the world. Bowermaster, a National Geographic Explorer, is in his element with his crew of explorers and filmmakers that takes us to the teeming coast of Gabon, the ancients of Vietnam, a circumnavigation of Tasmania, the bottom of the world in Antarctica, the Aleutian Islands, the Tuamotu Atolls of French Polynesia, and the Dalmation Coast of Croatia. The eight-film project began in 1999, and the goal of each excursion simply involves adventure crossed with the exploration of indigenous cultures, history, and environmental concerns.


The Fourth Annual Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival kicks off with Sharkwater on Friday, October 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre, and continues Saturday and Sunday at the S.B. Maritime Museum, starting at 10 a.m. each day. For a full schedule, see sboceanfilmfestival.com.


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