A first for the UK and for Cambridge, the Ocean Film Festival UK Tour was brought to the city with the help of the Cambridge Expedition Society who also provided a bar, extending the watery theme off the screen. Over 400 attendees packed the hall eager to experience the exciting line-up of 11 films covering everything from underwater art to great white sharks and colossal ocean crossings.
While the theme of conservation was ever present, the evening by no means felt like a visual lecture on the mankind’s destructive nature: instead, the programme actively focused on more positive ocean experiences with stories of fishermen bonding with whale sharks rather than hunting them (The Giant and the Fishermen) and female free-divers in South Korea (Haenyeo: Women of the Sea).
The programme covered a broad range of topics – too many to mention – but there were definitely some stand-out films that are well worth looking up if you didn’t make it to the festival. Duct Tape Surfing does exactly what it says on the tin and tells the remarkable story of Pascale Honore who was left paralysed from the waist down eighteen years ago and recently found a new sense of freedom surfing whilst duct-taped to the back of her son’s friend Tyron Swan. Inspiring and heartfelt, this short film will restore any lost faith you might have in the youth of today and have you gunning for Pascale’s next adventure.
Another crowd pleaser on the night was And Then We Swam with another title that paints a pretty accurate picture of the film’s climactic denouement. James Adair and Ben Stenning are just regular guys who decided to actually follow-through on a drunken bet to row across the Indian Ocean. With no rowing experience, the pair spent their combined life savings of £15,000 on a second hand boat and embarked on an epic journey that would take them and their friendship to the edge in more ways than one. Hugely relatable and genuinely funny, And Then We Swam will make you reconsider how unrealistic those hair-brained plans of yours really are.
Watching these fascinating films highlighted the additional challenges faced by marine filmmakers, and while the production values varied across the films shown, audiences soon realised that those Hollywood-esque lush visuals would be nothing without a remarkable narrative.