Wednesday | April, 01, 2015
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Waimea Ocean Film Festival seeks to inspire, educate

One film helped inspire an unexpected endeavor for Tania Howard.

After viewing it during a 2009 film festival in Colorado, Howard knew Hawaii residents needed to see “The End of The Line,” a powerful British documentary revealing the impact of industrial fishing and the catastrophic decline of global fish stocks. She diligently began working to bring it to Hawaii Island, along with six other films showcasing the beauty, mystery and plight of the ocean.

The films, shown at eight different places around the island and on Maui, generated an overwhelming, enthusiastic response from the public, as well as more screening requests statewide and as faraway as Canada and the mainland. Thus, the nonprofit Waimea Ocean Film Festival was created. Howard, who runs a local sailing company, is its passionate founder and executive director.

Now happening every January, the much-anticipated festival is “designed to inspire, educate and engage participants in a celebration of the ocean and island culture, and an increased awareness of the same.” It has grown from its humble beginnings to 39 films, all of which “spotlight extraordinary independent filmmakers with compelling, worthwhile stories to tell,” Howard said. She also expressed gratitude for the ongoing support from festival patrons, filmmakers, guest speakers and sponsors, all of whom she credited for the event’s continued success.

This year’s films often look at how and why we act as a society and as individuals, speaks to our roles as stewards, as well as chronicles personal inspiration and people making a difference. Howard hopes attendees not only enjoy the films, but also find their own meaning, wisdom, beauty and possibly a framework for change. She listed “Chasing Ice,” “North of The Sun,” and “The Island President” as among her favorite films.

In this “gripping thriller,” acclaimed photographer James Balog documents the erosion of our planet’s glaciers and help reveal the effect climate change is having. Making its US premiere, “North of the Sun” tells the inspiring story of Inge Wegge and Jorn Ranum who spend nine months on a remote, arctic island off the coast of Norway, surfing and living off of leftovers, things washed ashore or discarded during winter. “The Island President” follows Mohamed Nasheed, a former Maldivian leader who passionately urged for action to halt climate change. It also focuses on democracy. After the film was completed, Nasheed was forced to resign in a coup, Howard said.

The third annual festival promises to be a dynamic, exciting and fun event for film buffs and ocean lovers. It will be held Jan. 3 through 7 at Kahilu Theatre, Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Gates Performing Arts Center, Parker School Theatre, Anna Ranch Heritage Center, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and The Shops at Mauna Lani. Then it will take place from Jan. 8 to 11 at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

Besides the exceptional films, there are several opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation with special guests and filmmakers, including breakfast talks, receptions, panel discussions, and question and answer sessions. A noted speaker is M. Sanjayan, a chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy and a CBS correspondent on science and environment. He has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and David Letterman, was a TED Global 2010 speaker, and has hosted various documentaries. At the festival, he will be discussing climate change and super storms like Hurricane Sandy.

The Taste of the Island event, happening at 5 p.m. Jan. 6, features top Big Islands chefs and restaurants, music, hula and the Waimea People’s Choice Award at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s luau grounds. The cost is $85 for adults and $35 for keiki. Proceeds go toward helping host the festival’s special guests while they’re on the island.

Interwoven throughout the festival are cultural experiences, such as the evening at Kaupulehu, where stories, traditions and history of the people and area will be shared. Master Navigator Chadd Paishon will also share his knowledge of voyaging and non-instrument celestial navigation.

Activities like yoga on the beach and outrigger canoe lessons are offered, too.

To attend the festival, purchase either an $85 Waimea six-punch pass, $85 Four Seasons four-punch pass, $85 Fours Seasons Day Pass, $165 Waimea Film Pass, $165 Four Seasons Film Pass or $1,065 Contributor’s Pass. For those in kindergarten through grade 12, passes are available for $35.

For more information, including purchasing passes and viewing the festival’s complete schedule, visit waimeaoceanfilm.org. General inquiries may also be directed to the festival office by calling 854-6095 or emailing info@waimeaoceanfilm.org.