November 10, 2014


A remarkable spirit of cooperation and mutual support pervaded the Blue Ocean Film Festival this year as the tightly-knit ocean community came together and shared not only films, but visions for more ambitious ocean conservation in the future. Support of marine sanctuaries was omnipresent among the gathered filmmakers, explorers, politicians and other notables. The festival, which alternates between St. Petersburg, Florida and Monaco, is much more than a world-class film festival: it is an epicenter of the ocean conservation dialogue that grows in strength with each succeeding event. Let’s take a look back at a few memorable moments from the week.

Captain Bob Ballard and explorer Megan Cook aboard the E/V Nautilus during BLUE © Courtney Mattison

The friendship deepened between Mission Blue founder Dr. Sylvia Earle and former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed. Dr. Earle even honored Mr. Nasheed with the Mission Blue award for his distinguished work advocating for carbon abatement in the face of sea level rise that especially threatens very low-lying nations like the Maldives. As president, Mr. Nasheed had promised to make the island nation entirely carbon-free within a decade through wind and solar energy. Unfortunately, Mr. Nasheed was thrown from power in a coup in 2010 before he could realize that dream. 

Ever the optimist, Mr. Nasheed voiced his hope to one day return to office in the Maldives and claimed to feel very at home in Florida due to the tropical weather and, more humorously he added, the contested elections. Certainly a highlight of the week was the screening of The Island President, a feature documentary that details Mr. Nasheed’s struggle to convince the world community to act on climate change and protect the impending flooding of the 1200 islands of the Maldives. Also screened during the week was Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue film, which was greeted with a standing ovation.


David Conover of Conservation Media Group hosted a lively panel discussion addressing the powerful potential energy that filmmakers bring to the global push for ocean conservation. The speakers shared savvy techniques for combining video and social media petitions, as well as new distribution strategies that embrace multi-organization coordination. On the panel: Alison Barratt of the Khaled Bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, David Conover, David Guggenheim, The Ocean Doctor, Gianna Savoie of the Ocean Media Institute and Mission Blue’s Deb Castellana.

Comms Panel Shot
Photo: Gianna Savoie

All were in awe of 14-year-old Jonah Bryson, the creator of the feature length documentary A Sweet Spot in Time, who was recognized as the best emerging filmmaker at the BLUE Carpet Awards. Mr. Bryson engaged multiple conservation organizations, including a partnership with Mission Blue, in his work creating this special eco-documentary. Attendees voiced their excitement in how the Mission Blue partnership network is helping get the word out about independent ocean conservation films, such as Angel Azul and The Last Ocean. See trailers for these three films below.

Ocean Cartoonist and Mission Blue Board Member Jim Toomey also won an award this year for his short animated film entitled “Two Min on Oceans w/ Jim Toomey: Marine Litter.” Marine litter, especially plastics, is one of the chief threats to the ocean environment, so much so that five expansive gyres of debris have formed in every ocean on earth. Indeed, last year at BLUE, Mission Blue Expeditions Director Kip Evans won an award for his work on ‘GYRE,’ a documentary about the great plastic gyre in the Northern Pacific.  

Finally, any review of this year’s festival would be remiss without the winner of the Youtube contest, a film called What Do I Do to Keep the Ocean BLUE by filmmaker and ocean lover Patrick Webster. In two minutes, the short film manages to not only describe some of the every day actions we can take to help the ocean, but also dives into the psyche of the conservationist. Humor is not lost in this short film. Check it out below. 

As the Blue Ocean Film Festival grows in size and prestige each year, it is fast becoming a center of gravity for the entire ocean conservation movement. St. Petersburg, Florida with its pristine beaches and lively town, is an ideal location to bring together all corners of the ocean community. Perhaps nothing encapsulates this conservation camaraderie more than this picture below of Dr. Sylvia Earle, lifelong oceanographer and 14-year-old Jonah Bryson, who just debuted his first ocean documentary. With efforts like his, we can have confidence that the fight for ocean conservation will grow ever stronger in the years to come.

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For more information on the Blue Ocean Film Festival click here.


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