ALPENA - Close ties to sister site Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Project Shiphunt's selection among over 300 film entries raised local interest to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. The traveling international festival is an exclusive one, having only screened in San Francisco; Boulder, Colo.; Hong Kong; and Vladivostok, Russia. Alpena is fortunate to be included in the lineup Oct. 12-13.
Stephanie Gandulla, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary media and outreach coordinator, with help from the film festival director, "hand-picked" 13 of the 43 total films to screen at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center for two special days. She said the documentary-style films are primarily ocean-related but can still have an impact in Northeast Michigan.
"I like to say that we're all connected to the ocean even though we're in the middle of the country. The Great Lakes lead to the ocean, what we do affects the ocean," she said.
According to Gandulla, a film festival is something the sanctuary has been trying to host for quite some time, and she hopes to take more advantage of the theatre capabilities.
"We have to pay, but we thought it was worth it to bring these films into Alpena, and it's a fundraiser event for the Friends (of the Sanctuary) group. We'd like to start doing an annual thing ... different types of films, maybe have a student film festival. This is just sort of the beginning," Gandulla said.
The films range in time from three minutes to 90, and vary in tone. Gandulla tried to balance each screening with the right amount of light-heartedness and seriousness, as some of the themes can get "super heavy," she said. Films from the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Poland, Japan and Canada will be represented during Alpena's screenings, with a mix of new and famous filmmakers.
What: San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
When: Oct. 12: Opening night reception 6-7 p.m. and evening screenings 7-9 p.m. (Tickets $16)
Oct. 13: Matinee screenings 1-3 p.m. and evening screenings 7-9 p.m. Oct. 13 (Tickets $8)
Where: Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center
* Kids tickets $5
Film festival schedule
- Oct. 12: Evening program (running time 105 min.)
Ocean Oases: Protecting Seamounts and Canyons of the Atlantic
Fish Meat: Choose Your Farm Wisely
- Oct. 13: Afternoon program (running time 98 min.)
Where Journeys Meet
Sanctuary: The Last Stand for Sharks
Into the Deep with Elephant Seals
- Oct. 13: Evening program (running time 105 min.)
Cool Critters: Lake Erie Water Snakes
The Great Huki
People of a Feather
"The ocean is all-encompassing. I was impressed with the breadth of topics they had. I chose what I thought would be best for Alpena," Gandulla said.
This includes a film specific to the Great Lakes about a woman who works with Lake Erie water snakes. "Cool Critters: Lake Erie Water Snakes" is what Gandulla calls a success story that traces the reptile coming back from the brink of extinction. Her personal favorite was "People of a Feather," a Canadian film whose "powerful imagery and message" focuses on Hundson Bay's Belcher Islands' changing currents and the struggles Inuit people face as a result.
Locally filmed shipwreck documentary Project Shiphunt was entered in to the ocean film festival, and to the delight of sanctuary staff, was selected and screened in San Francisco in March. Alpena is now on the map for festival attendees in California, Colorado, Russia, and Hong Kong.
"Movies are very powerful, and they're a very universal way to connect or reach out with the power of storytelling," Gandulla said. "I hope that people are reminded what a great venue we have here, this theatre, but also I hope that it allows people to see Alpena as a player on the global screen. We're not just here remote."
Local food and drink establishments have agreed to sponsor the Oct. 12 reception, where light hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served, and wine and beer will be available for purchase from 6-7 p.m. Evening screenings will be from 7-9 p.m. with an intermission offering chocolates, coffee and an opportunity to discuss the films. Matinee screenings last from 1-3 p.m. on Oct. 13, and evening screenings will take place from 7-9 p.m. that night. The matinee will include a kid-friendly selection of films. Tickets for Oct. 12 are $16, $8 for Oct. 13, and $5 for children. For tickets and festival information, or for those interested in sponsoring, call Stephanie Gandulla at 356-8805, ex. 38.
The Downtown Development Authority is a major sponsor for the event.
Look for synopses on the films next week in The News.