by Lindsey Rabbitt
“Meet you at the oysters,” said one guest to his partner, as he drifted into the crowd towards the wine bar, hidden behind a glowing column of swirling, twinkling sardines, busily swimming in an endless circle. Noting that the 2012 Ocean Film Festival Opening Gala was held in the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Francisco, the oysters could have been anywhere– behind a wall of glass in a miniature habitat, or presented neatly on a glossy serving tray, ready to be consumed by the dozens of guests on opening night.
For the third year in a row, the festival is being held at the Aquarium of the Bay, and all films will be screened in the newly renovated Bay Theater March 8-11 (you can still buy tickets for Sunday’s screenings). All guests, with a purchase of a festival ticket, are also granted access to Aquarium of the Bay, which provokes the perfect tone of reflection both before and after watching any of the 44 films to be screened.
Once inside, you are enveloped in the warmth of an event that is so close to the city’s heart. The deep, indigo paint and the subtle lights that trickle across the walls make you instantly feel near to the ocean, if not imagine yourself within the very depths of its waters.
The Opening Gala featured wines from Bay Area wineries, and divine seafood and appetizers from such local establishments as Fog Harbor, which is housed just across from Pier 39. A curry-infused Quinoa salad topped with a lightly grilled shrimp paired with a flute of Scottsdale Rose was the perfect accompaniment to a seemingly moonlit walk around the aquarium’s chambers, each one filled with a cluster of animated guests and filmmakers alike.
The screening of each of the four films was followed by filmmakers in attendance, as will be the trend for the rest of the festival. We were fortunate enough to witness the North America premiere of a short film entitled Ray: A Life Underwater, a charming feature from the UK that tells of the lifelong love that one eccentric, elderly man has with the ocean and all her lost treasures. The evening ended with the world premiere of a film from the USA by Corrina Gamma, Where Journeys Meet, a documentary that, without narration, shows both the beauty and everyday struggle of the resilient animals of the Arctic region.
The entire night was just a taste of what local and world issues must be addressed to keep our oceans thriving and abundant for both wildlife and humanity to properly coexist. But the most striking message received was that of the ownership and dedication of not only the San Franciscans in attendance, but from the filmmakers that hail from across the earth’s continents, who bring with them messages of education and hope. As one of the main sponsors for the festival, the America’s Cup, said before the films began, “What we do today determines the ocean our children inherit tomorrow.” The allure of the ocean and her many wonders may perhaps be what left with all of us last night, and the idea that real, everlasting change is not far off.
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