There is little that is more inspiring than cinematic ocean journeys. The International Ocean Film Festival at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium on Sept. 10 will be no exception. The festival has been on hiatus since 2019 with filmmakers using the pandemic to prepare more entries than ever before. This year's festival is a single-sitting viewing of several shorts and a longer, spectacular feature, Soul of the Ocean, with matinee or evening showtimes.
“Thank goodness for the filmmakers who have dedicated their lives to filming underwater life that most people will never see,” says film festival executive director Ana Blanco.
The film lineup spans the globe, transporting viewers on a journey from Polynesia to the Mediterranean through a variety of cinematic styles, including documentary and animated short. There’s even a mockumentary about one plastic bag’s voyage to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Mote events coordinator Veronica Perrelli says that, compared to previous years, “This year’s films are more ocean conservation-themed” with “positive messaging that will engage and empower the audience.”
For Back to the Sea filmmaker Jack Gordon, the festival presents an opportunity for guests to experience surprising stories of those making waves in ocean conservation. “You don’t have to make a grand gesture,” he says. “Even one person or small group deciding to think about things differently can have an impact.”
While Sarasotans are no strangers to life by the sea, Mote communications coordinator Sean Stover hopes that the festival will open their eyes to how different ecosystems across the globe are connected. “Impacts here are connected to the rest of the world, and it’s not just about protecting Sarasota Bay, but about protecting the ocean in general,” she explains.
Of course, Sarasota is an ideal place to host the festival. “You can walk out of the WAVE Center and the water is right there,” Stover points out. “It adds an extra level of power to the films.” Mote encourages anyone who wants to learn about ocean conservation to attend, especially families with younger kids and adults interested in ocean conservation.
And in true film-festival form, guests can expect to receive star treatment as they walk the red carpet, pose for photo ops, and enjoy snacks and wine or beer from the Deep Sea Diner.
Tickets are $8 for Mote members and $12 for nonmembers, and guests can choose to attend the 3-5:30 p.m. matinee or the 7-9:30 p.m. evening show. The festival will be held at the WAVE Center at Mote Aquarium, at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.