The Festival of Ocean Films, hosted by Georgia Strait Alliance, marks its ninth year, and it comes to the shores of Pender Harbour on June 9.
This year’s screenings at the Music Centre in Madeira Park (12956 Madeira Park Rd.) carry strong messages about the current state of the world’s oceans to honour World Oceans Day. None is more inspirational than the feature film, Sea of Life, from Julia Barnes. The Toronto-based filmmaker was compelled to act when she realized how the ecosystems we depend on are in jeopardy.
As a kid Barnes loved animals and nature but the ocean was something far away and mysterious. “I got my first glimpse of it through documentaries like The Blue Planet and was mesmerized,” Barnes told Coast Reporter. “Still, I never thought I would have anything to do with the ocean. It was when I watched Rob Stewart’s documentary Revolution that everything changed for me. I learned that the world’s coral reefs, rain forests and fish were expected to be wiped out in my lifetime. Everything I loved was in jeopardy and the only thing I could do from that point onward was to fight for its protection.”
Though she was only 16 at the time, she bought a camera and plane tickets and learned scuba diving. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought I could finish a movie in less than a year, but it ended up taking three years and taking me to seven different countries on a quest to expose the biggest threats facing the ocean.”
The result is the feature film Sea of Life (2017). Winner of the Cinema Verde Film Festival (2017) and of the EnviroFilm Festival (2017), the film takes audiences on a provocative journey. It shows how changes to oceans are disrupting the planet’s oxygen supply and irrevocably impacting marine life, but also offers a rallying movement to save them.
“The ocean is the source of all life on this planet, and it’s being destroyed at an alarming rate,” Barnes said. “I wanted to wake people up to that fact and hopefully inspire them to fight for the ocean. It’s a huge failure of the education system that kids aren’t being taught this in school.”
Also showing a film at the Festival is Mark Leiren-Young, a Vancouver-based journalist and screenwriter, whose short film is about the longest-living southern resident killer whale, The Hundred-Year-Old Whale. An official selection at several film festivals and, most recently, named Best Documentary at the Writers Guild of Canada Awards (2018), this short allows audiences to meet Granny, the orca matriarch that lived off the coast of BC until she died last year.
Screenings run from 7 p.m. to 9:30 and include an in-person Q and A with Leiren-Young. Tickets are $15 for general admission, or $13 for members of Georgia Strait Alliance and Ruby Lake Lagoon Society, the community partner for the screening. Net profits will be donated to Georgia Strait Alliance to assist with the organization’s mission to protect and restore the marine environment, and promote the sustainability of the Strait of Georgia, its adjoining waters and communities.