Vancouver Festival of Ocean Films mixes the heady with the hedonistic
Because there’s water, water everywhere, it makes sense that there should be a Vancouver Festival of Ocean Films. “When we came up with the idea and started looking around, there was no ocean film festival in Canada at the time,” Peter Alford tells the Straight. “And we were, like, ‘Wow. We’re surrounded on three sides by oceans.’ ”
The festival director has been an aquatic-sports junkie his whole life, so the VFOF has been a labour of love, from its inception three years ago at the Hollywood Theatre to a slightly downscaled version that he and his partners ran online in 2011. For this year’s edition, Alford is going big, presenting 10 films of varying length on Friday and Saturday (June 8 and 9) at the Vancity Theatre. “Of course, I think: ‘Who would not go to an ocean film festival? We should be beating people away with sticks!’” he says with a laugh.
“I feel that English Bay and the ocean around here don’t get the respect they deserve,” Alford explains. “People see them as a sort of accessory; they’re just here. There’s so much more that goes on in our oceans than people realize. As well, I really like documentary filmmaking, and there are a lot of people doing really cool stuff—people out there doing these great expeditions, and surfing these great waves—and they weren’t getting the recognition I felt they deserved.”
As per that simple manifesto, the VFOF mingles the hedonistic—as in surfer Kelly Slater’s search for The Ultimate Wave Tahiti—with the heady, represented here by a raft of films focused on political and ecological issues, like Risteard O’ Domhnaill’s acclaimed The Pipe.
“I really believe in conservation through education,” Alford says. “When people have an understanding of the issues, or what’s at risk, they can make their own informed decisions about if they even want to do anything about it. We’re not an advocacy group; we show films, but there’s just so much going on in our world’s oceans that we feel people should learn about.”
Alford adds that the VFOF has partnered with nonprofits since its 2010 debut, with this year’s proceeds going to the Georgia Strait Alliance—an appropriate choice, given that fish-farming (Fish Meat ), and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline (The Pipedreams Project ) are among the topics covered by the program. On top of all that, there’s a hell of a door prize going to one lucky attendee. “A two-week trip to the Arctic, courtesy of One Ocean Expeditions,” Alford says. “That is a pretty cool prize. The One Ocean guys have been brilliant. They’re super-focused on education; they’re very experienced and they want people to go back home changed.”
For more information, visit www.vfof.ca.