Issue 14.6: Dec. 2011 / Jan. 2012

Cinema of the Sea

story by Sheila Sarhangi

art courtesy Waimea Ocean Film Festival


Jake Eberts is sharing inside stories about the films he’s produced: Gandhi, Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It. When he gets to the film he’s showing at the Waimea Ocean Film Festival (WOFF), Disney’s Oceans, the audience seems distracted. Behind him, out the floor-to-ceiling windows and beyond the shoreline, a humpback whale slaps its tail on the ocean’s surface for a full two minutes, as if applauding.


This was just one of many moments of beauty and synchronicity at the first WOFF, a five-day event featuring some thirty films about the sea—its environment, the creatures that inhabit it and the people who depend on it.


The second annual festival promises to outdo the first, which some Hollywood bigwigs in attendance said had a “fabulous” turnout for an inaugural event. On the slate is Family of the Wa‘a, which documents a 1,750-mile, six-year journey up the Hawaiian Island chain via outrigger paddling canoe. (The three paddlers who completed the entire voyage will be there to talk about the experience.) Wayne Levin will share his haunting photos of the remote and rarely visited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Not all events link directly to the ocean; the award-winning documentary Happy explores cutting-edge science to understand what really makes people happy.


The festival will take place January 4 to 8, 2012, at three venues in Waimea and at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. It runs again January 13 to 15 at the Four Seasons Hualalai. The festival’s founder and executive director, Tania Howard, felt inspired to bring thought-provoking films to Hawai‘i after she attended the Telluride Mountain Film Festival two years ago, she says. But she wanted WOFF to be about more than just the films, so the festival features talks with filmmakers and scholars, art exhibits and activities like sunrise beach yoga. “I want people to have the opportunity to discuss the films and engage in conversations and hear speakers that really grab our attention,” she says. “My hope is that people walk away having heard or seen something that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”