Local movies highlight film fest

The Hawaii Ocean Film Festival returns to Waipa at 6 p.m. Saturday. Outdoor screenings of feature and short films about marine resources, ocean recreation, and our cultural connections to the sea.

The 2.5 hour festival of independent films begins with local stories about people and organizations that work to preserve and protect nearshore environments through volunteerism and the environmental sciences.

“The festival goal is to encourage the viewers to pick a beach, whether it is near their home, or their favorite, or maybe just the beach that really needs some extra attention – and make a commitment to protecting and preserving that resource once in a while,” said HOFF Director Melinda Sandler. “Or make a donation to a local organization doing the work already.”

The family friendly festival begins with filmmaker Brady Cushway’s touching tribute to Kauai’s beloved ocean advocates, Kathy and Bobo Ham Young, a mother and son who both passed away recently, showing the avid anglers enjoying the North Shore with friends and family.

Stephen Watkins of Lihue, is the festival’s local filmmaker profile for 2014. His film, “Spirit Of Aloha,” is a heartwarming music video featuring a montage of clips inspired by the families involved in outrigger events.

“Living on Kauai and building new friendships has given me an inner peace that I thought could not be matched,” Watkins said. “Having my film featured at the Hawaii Ocean Film Festival brings me to a new level of joy because the beauty of the island and caring nature of the people who live here can now be shared with others.”

As Watkins Productions, he applies a bachelor’s degree in television production and a master’s in instructional technology and digital media to educational and philanthropic projects. He is a website builder, photographer and videographer who provides technical support for the Performing Arts Center and other live performance venues in addition to video segments for Kauai Community College.

The Surfrider Trilogy follows with a message from the National Surfrider Foundation to “Rise Above Plastics and Pick Up Your Butts.” It is followed by Robert Zelkovsky’s (Bamboo Moon production) film, “Surfrider Net Pickup,” which documents the efforts of the Kauai chapter and its faithful volunteers.

One element, “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is a Surfrider partnership with Kauai Community College. The film features local scientist and Surfrider member Carl Berg, who regularly tests Japanese tsunami debris for radioactivity.

Watkins adds another short piece to the trilogy with a documentary on the work of Jessica Austin and Leah Sousen, who monitor debris and pollution at Kee Beach.

The fields of ocean archeology follows with the 30-minute film, “Lightning Strikes Twice,” featuring NOAA’s discovery of the whaleship wreck, “Two Brothers,” which struck the reef and sank in the French Frigate Shoals area of the Hawaiian Islands in 1823. The film should inspire young people to explore the ocean sciences and scuba divers will also enjoy the footage, say festival organizers.

The Two Brothers captain was George Pollard Jr., who had captained and survived a whale strike on the whaleship “Essex.” It inspired Herman Melville’s novel, “Moby Dick.”

“Waverider” by filmmaker Gareth Davies is the story of Esei Tokovou, a Fijian boatman and surf guide who won a wildcard entry Volcom Fiji Pro World Championship competition. Using hand-me-down boards and without a trainer or support team, Tokovou readies to compete against the top surfers in the world for more than $400,000 in prize money.

Esei carries the hopes of a nation into competition at Cloudbreak on Tavarua Island, rated by many big wave surfers as the best wave in the world.

Hawaii Ocean Film Festival selects films sent from around the world, with a goal of finding entertaining stories that also offer an educational component on the most pressing problems facing our environment that will relate to the local audience.

The topic is overfishing is highlighted in the 2015 HOFF. Films received this year describe, and offer possible solutions to the trafficking of IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fish.

“Fish-I Africa”, is film from The Pew Charitable Trust that shows how poorer countries small, illegal industrial fishing boats are taking one-fifth of the global tuna catch from the Western Indian Ocean near Southeast Africa.

“Fish-I Africa is uniting coastal countries Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania to help put a halt to large-scale illegal fishing in an area covering 500 million square kilometers of the Indian Ocean — the second-largest fishery in the world next to the Pacific.

The first HOFF events were held at the War Memorial Convention Hall on Kauai, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hilo Palace Theater, and Maui Arts and Cultural Center. The venue moved to outdoor screens to handle larger crowds but also to immerse the audience in the natural environment with warms winds, salty air, and the occasional blessing and rainbows.

Tickets are $5 and guests are encouraged to bring blankets and beach chairs. Advance tickets are available at Hanalei Surf Company, and Paradise Music kiosk outside of Foodland. Join Surfrider the night of the event and get in free. For information visit waipafoundation.org and hawaiioceanfilmfestival.org.

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