Immerse Yourself in the Ocean Film Festival World Tour

Rob Howard / 15.09.2018
/ © Tim Bonythorn

This was my first time dipping my toe into the waters of the Ocean Film Festival World Tour and if you get the chance I’d urge you to ‘come on in’.

It’s a partner tour to the better known Banff Mountain Film Festival tour and while some of the 7 films were not as polished as the offerings there, all of them offered a different perspective on adventures in the ocean and our relationship with the sea and marine life.  Together they were an entertaining and thought provoking programme for the audience I joined at a small theatre in Leamington Spa.

The original film festival began on northern beaches of Sydney and now visits 6 countries, this being its 5th year in the UK. The tour is associated with ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ and part of every ticket sold goes to support their work.

First up on this year’s UK tour was a short film called ‘Kiwi Breeze’, a film by Ruari Muir who remembered his neighbour Steve spending 9 years building a yacht in his back garden in North London.  After it was craned out over the rooftops he sailed it to New Zealand to settle there with his family.  With a combination of old home movies and interviews the film tells the story of a man following his dreams.

‘The Big Wave Project’ documented the life of the world’s elite big wave surfers and the surfing footage was heart-stopping and beautiful.  However, the film was more about the brotherhood of the surfers, and their motivation in chasing the biggest waves, not for commercial gain but for the challenge.

Other short films followed a pair of competitive free divers and a celebration of the beauty of the underwater world experienced by divers, but of the adventure films ‘Touched by the Ocean’ got the biggest reaction. This was a self made film shot by two Latvians who decided to become the first to row across the South Atlantic Ocean from Namibia to Brazil ... despite having no ocean rowing experience!

They were aiming to arrive for the opening of the Olympics in Rio, but never made that deadline. They did complete the crossing, after almost calling for rescue close to the end of the journey when off shore winds kept pushing them back from the coast.  To get there they’d survived a painful crossing (there were some graphics shots of them dealing with butt boils) and it was their spirit and humour in such trying situations that carried the film and engaged the audience.

The audience were just as caught up in the film ‘Blue’ – but for very different reasons. This film looked at the effect of marine pollution on sea life and subsequently on us all, through the work of two environmental projects.  In Australia a team pulled ‘ghost nets’ off of remote beaches to stop them doing any more harm. They are cast overboard by illegal fishermen thousands of miles away then swept in the ocean currents – killing thousands of turtles and many other marine animals as they do so.

The second project captured sea birds to study the plastic they’d ingested, and the amount was shocking, with some having more than 275 pieces of plastic in their stomachs. The film followed their work and while the situations they are trying to remedy are shocking it did at the same manage to convey that something can be done and the situation in our ocean is not irreversible – if we act now.

Equally shocking was what happened to South African athlete Achmat Hassiem, who had always wanted to represent his country. While on a life saving drill he was attacked by a Great White Shark and lost a leg, but still managed to fulfil his dream by representing RSA at the Paralympics and winning a bronze medal. Part of that recovery and achievement was enabled by facing his fears and meeting up again with the shark which had attacked him. He even named her Scarlet and now spends time in the water with sharks and helps campaign for their protection.

‘Scarlet’s Tale’ was the final film of an entertaining and sometimes educational evening of ocean films, and if you get the chance to go along to the tour I’d recommend you take it.

You can find all the tour dates and more information about the films at


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