Beneath the Waves Film Festival: An Ocean of Knowledge
Gainesville’s summer heat leaves us all with daydreams of jetting off to the beach to soak in the sea breeze and plunge into salty waves.
This Saturday Florida Sea Grant is pairing up with Beneath the Waves to make sure our coasts stay the dreamy paradise we all know and love. They’re encouraging scientists, advocates and the Gainesville community to channel their inner environmentalist in the “Beneath the Waves Film Festival: Living on the Edge.”
Starting at 5:30 PM in the Reitz Union, anyone interested in learning more about the environmental issues facing the ocean can come out for a night of “documentaries and chill” with a side of lively discussion. This free event will consist of three documentaries that shed light on how our oceans are being depleted for economic gains, with expert commentary and open discussions in between each film. Organizers of the film festival hope the documentaries and discussions will encourage attendees to promote and produce more marine-issue films in the name of environmental activism.
The three documentaries featured in the festival will address different issues facing oceans: Ecosystem Science: Facing Trade-offs in Ocean Management calls to action for proper management of ocean resources. Two Fish sheds light on two commonly consumed fish and their sustainability. And The Global Connection: Little Island, Big Fish highlights local environmental issues around the world through the eyes of a Millennial.
We got a chance to sit down with Sami Kattan, the producer of The Global Connection: Little Island, Big Fish, and learned more about his journey with environmental activism.
How did you become involved in environmental protection?
During my time in college, becoming trained to be an outdoor leader with UF’s TRiP (Travel and Recreation Program) opened my eyes to the outdoor world, while studying scuba diving courses showed me the beauty and awe that exists beneath the sea. I then began to go on travels with friends I met in TRiP to various Central American countries that opened my eyes to incredible tropical beauty. After graduating college, I went on a 2 month trip to Utila, a small isle off the coast of Honduras, to do a month long Divemaster scuba diving course. On my third day on the island I swam with my first whale shark – a 45 ft male – Old Tom – and island frequenter who has been visiting for decades. I swam with this incredible being for 1/4 mile, utterly immersed in it’s beauty and forgetting all else. Seeing this animal brought about a personal revelation that what already exists in the natural world is perfect beauty – and all the sky scrapers and monuments us human beings can dream up will never match, let alone surpass, the beauty that already exists in the natural world. And thus I committed myself to protecting and safeguarding it, for others to see this realization and become inspired themselves, realize this ultimate beauty, and perhaps even redefine their meaning of life itself.
What was your inspiration for creating The Global Connection?
The largest gathering of whale sharks happens off of the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and I became obsessed with the idea of going – the mecca of whale sharks. Day dreaming of swimming with tens of these behemoths left me drooling. Summer after summer went by and I kept missing the season (May 15 – Sept 15). But finally in May 2015 I put my foot down, made it a priority to book a ticket, and figured I’d shoot my first environmental doc around the story of the adventure. Nothing was scripted. I had no contacts on Isla Holbox, Mexico. I just went there with a determined will, my almost fluent Spanish, a few cameras, and a drone. I actually didn’t plan on covering environmental issues, as I wanted to just showcase the beauty of the creatures. But I realized on the island that with such a rapid rate of human development in our age, it didn’t make sense to show one without the other. Thus, I was inspired to use the beauty that opened my eyes to the wonders of the natural world to open the eyes and minds of others. Thus the show was born with the idea to showcase the natural beauty of a specific location to draw the audience in, raise awareness about a specific environmental issue, and then relate how that issue is not isolated but can be found around the globe, so that solutions for both local and global citizens will be made to create awareness and aim to improve the situation for humans and the environment as best as possible.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about how tourism impacts the environment?
I think the word ‘ecotourism’ presents a confusing situation. Because of the recent global overuse of the words ‘green’/’natural’/’eco’ in branding, the word ‘eco’ is closely associated to values of sustainability, natural preservation, environmental stewardship, etc.. In fact, I went on this trip thinking that ecotourism was the answer to human-environment issues but learned first hand that when not properly managed, eco tourism can be a destructive force. Proper research needs to be done to understand if ecotourism is being done sustainably or not. So don’t be fooled by the word ‘eco’ folks. Do your research
Why should Gainesville residents come out to see your film?
The film is about whale sharks, Mexico, and eco tourism. so why should Gainesville care? Great question. The film takes the audience on a personal narrative journey of a young millennial delving deeper into the local tourism industry than most travelers, experiencing their realizations as he has them. The two main goals of the film are to inspire critically thinking in individuals about our impact on this planet and inspire an environmental ethic. Thus, the goal is for anyone to relate to the psychological journey of the film and apply this process of thinking into their own lives on a daily basis.
Where is the most beautiful place you have ever seen?
The most beautiful place I have ever seen is the raw landscape of the Baja Peninsula. The lack of excessive human development has left the land vastly untouched and its true beauty remains to be seen, sculpted only by layers of time.