Beneath the waves — on the big screen

By Jenny Lavell
Flapjack Chronicle staff

The lights dimmed while people chatted, drank beer and listened to inspirational music playing over surfing videos as everyone waited for Arcata Theater Lounge’s monthly Ocean Night to begin.

People of all different sorts show up to ATL on the first Thursday or Friday of every month to get their ocean fix. Surfers, divers and marine studies students mix with local activists from Surfrider, Humboldt Baykeepers and the Ocean Conservancy. Kids run all over the place, excited to watch the videos with cute otters and interesting sharks.

Typically a well-established documentary is shown followed by an inspiring surf film. But October’s event was no ordinary Ocean Night. It was the Beneath the Waves Film Festival. Seven videos were shown, all filmed and produced by students. All touched on climate change and its affects on the ocean. All were research based with a social commentary.

The first film, “Time Will Tell” by Madison Stewart, had won best conservation message. Stewart narrates the film, telling the world about her life in the ocean and her love for the sharks. Only 18 years old, Stewart describes the changes in the shark populations that she has seen in this beautiful, moving film.

The next film was “Plastics Future: the Midway Story” by Claire Feisler. This was one of the more devastating films shown as it focused on the accumulation of plastics on Midway Island and how this affects the birds living there.

A commercial came on between the second and third film. Modeled after an eHarmony commercial, this was an ad for seaHarmony. This parody featured one of the oddest of couples; a young woman with a hermit crab. “Other dating sites are so species specific,” she says. “When I look into his compound eyes, I see bioluminescence.” This little fluff piece was a great relief from the horrors of plastic, both already shown and to come.

The third film, “Gloop” by Gaby Bastyra and Joe Churchman, had won People’s Choice. This film was a chilling rhyme about plastic’s past, present and future. Completely animated and voiced over by a young girl with a British accent, this film was fascinating in its darker approach to voicing the dangers of plastics.

The next three films were all uplifting messages about sharks. “Befriending Giants” by Shawn Heinrichs told the amazing tale of of a village in the Philippines feeding and befriending the local population of whale sharks.


“Sharkwater Saipan” by Angelo Villagomez and Rob Stewart may have been the most inspiring of the videos shown at Ocean Night, telling the tale of the reaction of a sixth grade class in a Saipanese elementary school to a documentary on shark finning and how they helped pass a bill to make Saipan the second place in the world to ban shark fin soup. The last film, “Solstice” by Simon Spear, was about the search for basking sharks in the waters off Scotland.

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