Celebrating Our Seas at the Ocean Film Festival World Tour

Press Release / 05.11.2021
Onekotan Islands, one of the Kuril Islands

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour is now back in theatres around the world and is currently showing in cities around the UK with a programme of 7 varied films celebrating our oceans.

Entertainment venues and travel have been two of the hardest hit industries in the Covid emergency, so it can’t have been easy to find new films and plan a tour, but it’s a great show, full of thought provoking and extraordinary films.  Not everyone will be ready to go back to theatres yet, and the show I saw in Birmingham had some empty seats but, for those who do go along, the Ocean Film Festival is always a night which you leaves feeling inspired.  (There are also some past film programmes which can be watched from your sofa at home with a virtual programme film pass.)

Most of this year’s films are fairly short and by the far the longest, at 51 minutes, is Zach Carver’s film about the ‘Race to Alaska’.  This is a boating race covering 750 miles of dangerous waters from Port Townsend in Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. The route takes teams through tidal off-shore channels or out into the open ocean, is remote and beautiful, and challenges teams to the limits of their endurance.

There is only one rule, which is that the boats can’t use a motor, so there are teams of all sizes and some solo racers, and a variety of craft from paddle boards (yes really) to highly tuned racing trimarans.  The quickest take around 4 days and the slowest can be on the water for up to 16 days, rowing when there is no wind and wild camping along the way.  (Bears are one of the risks of the race.)

The film looks back over all the previous races, interviewing the founders and organisers, and the competitors, and using footage from different years of the race and shot by the teams. As a result it’s a very immersive film that gets you into the mindset of those who take the race on, often with little hope of finishing.

 The whole event has a fantastic spirit of adventure that everyone buys into, and a great sense of humour too.  Teams are started by playing the Russian national anthem at full volume, and the $10,000 prize money is nailed to a log and put on the finish line for the winners to claim.  Second place get a set of steak knives.

A very different film is ‘Voice Above the Water’ which interviews and looks at the life of 90 year old Balinese fisherman Wayan.  Well, he used to be a fisherman, he can no long fish due to plastic pollution and now he goes out every day and collects plastic waste from the ocean in his nets. It’s a very moving film, and demonstrates how he makes a difference, and how he teaches younger generations to do the same. 

There is no escaping the issue of plastic pollution at the festival, it’s too important, and another film meeting the issue head on is ‘Changing Tides’, which follow Australian paddlers Lucy and Mathilde as they tackle the inside passage route up the North American coast to Alaska. It’s a 2000km route, which took the two inexperienced paddlers 3 months to complete.

The film follows the pair on their adventure, and also documents how they undertook the journey without any single use plastics.  They even prepared and dehydrated 500 meals, which were wrapped in newspaper for the trip. There is some practical advice too on how everyone can do simple things to reduce their plastic use.

The other longer feature film in the programme is ‘From Kurils With Love’, which follows a scientific and film making team to the Kuril Islands, which are in the North Pacific between Russia and Japan.  (They are Russian owned but some are disputed territory.)   The main subject is not so much the islands themselves, though they have some quite stunning volcanic scenery, but Russian Marine Biologist Vladimir.  He asked to tag along on the trip at the last minute as he has no funding for his research, which aims to monitor and protect the sea lions and seal species on the islands.  They are essential to the ecology of the region and rapidly diminishing as they have no protected status. 

His love of the beautiful and inaccessible islands and their wildlife shines through, as does his commitment and dedication to keep working against the odds and in difficult environments. (If, like me, you have never heard of the Kuril islands, look them up, they are amazing!)

The other films cover skimboarding in Mexico, free diving with dolphins off the coast of Ireland, and the work photographer David Yarrow as he strives to capture the wildlife on South Georgia.

The shows are run by the same company who organise the Banff Mountain Film World Festival Tour, and they are partnered with the charities Surfers Against Sewage, and The Marine Conservation Society.

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour UK runs until the end of the month with shows running all around the UK.  You can see the tour dates at https://www.oceanfilmfestival.co.uk and also access the ‘Adventure on Demand’ programmes for viewing at home. 

Other countries hosting the tour are the USA, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand.  See https://oceanfilmfestivalworldtour.com/ for full details.

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