When Debbie Kinder, executive director of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit, was asked how this multifaceted ocean event has changed since its inaugural presence in Monterey in 2010, her response was, "It's grown exponentially."
In particular, the international reach of the festival has stretched farther around the globe, bringing diverse perspectives to BLUE 2012, said Kinder.
The event has attracted an international crowd for film competition entries, with submissions from 24 countries in five different languages, as well as for the industry component of the festival, with attendees arriving in Monterey from as far away as Norway, Germany and France.
The original vision of Kinder and her husband Charles Kinder (both documentary filmmakers with a passion for ocean conservation) was to layer BLUE on three different "tiers" of participation — all with considerable overlap.
The first tier is the international film festival, but there is also a film industry tier that serves as a conference for filmmakers and ocean photographers, as well as an ocean conservation tier that consists of educational talks and panel discussions by some of the world's leading ocean experts.
"We always wanted to be a platform for the creative community, the scientific community and the advocacy community with surfers and divers," said Kinder.
This year, the conservation angle of BLUE is ramped up with the coincidence of another monumental ocean event in Monterey: the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World.
Held every four years in different locations throughout the globe, this is the first time that this academic symposium will take place in the United States.
Because more than 500 international experts on ocean acidification will be in Monterey at the same time as BLUE, the two organizations have decided to unite for joint panel discussions on Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, where scientists will talk about some of the latest research findings on ocean acidification.
Highlights include a keynote address by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, with a talk titled "Understanding the Ocean in a Changing World."
BLUE Ocean Film Festival is an important adjunct to this year's symposium, said James Barry, senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, one of the local hosts of the scientific conference.
"BLUE is the link between humans and the ocean," Barry said. "BLUE helps people connect with the ocean, even if they don't spend time swimming in the ocean. The more people can experience the ocean, appreciate the ocean, think about the ocean and learn about the ocean, the more likely they are to take action — even if it's just voting — for ocean health."
And for Kinder, film is the tool that provides that connection. "It's a great way to reach large numbers of people and explain complex issues in a way people can understand," she said. "Films help people to understand what's going on, and also to feel empowered that we can each make an impact. Oceans are so critical for our health and well-being — and not just for future generations, but for right now."
A summary of the film festival highlights for Sept. 24-30 follows; see www.blueoceanfilmfestival.org for a complete schedule.
The film festival opens Monday night at the Sunset Center in Carmel, with a keynote presentation by Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau. In honor of Sea Otter Awareness Week, the festival will kick off with a screening of the locally produced film "Otter 501," followed by a cocktail reception.
Tuesday continues with "My Father the Captain: Jacques Yves Cousteau," screened at the 1:30 p.m. film block, at the Museum of Monterey.
This intimate look into the life and legacy of underwater pioneer Cousteau will be followed by a filmmaker Q&A with Jean-Michel Cousteau. This film block will also include Jim Toomey's animated whale film, "Ocean Inspiration."
A Wednesday highlight will be "Ocean Voyages 3D," playing at 1 and 3:30 p.m. at the XD Cinemark Theater on Cannery Row in Monterey. Follow a newborn humpback calf and his enormous 40-ton mother as you take a 3-D journey into their underwater world.
Thursday features "The Big Fix," playing at 2:30 p.m. at the Golden State Theatre. This investigative documentary takes an in-depth look at the BP oil spill, uncovering a vast network of corruption that caused one of the greatest environmental catastrophes of all time.
A Friday morning highlight will be "The Island President," showing at 9:30 a.m. at the Golden State Theatre. After bringing democracy to his country, ousted President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, the lowest-lying country in the world, takes up the fight to keep his homeland from disappearing under the sea.
Friday night will feature the BLUE Carpet Awards Ceremony at 7 p.m. at the Golden State Theatre, where winners of 25 different film categories and the Best of Festival will be awarded. It will be followed by the BLUE Carpet Awards Gala, starting at 9 p.m. at the Museum of Monterey.
Saturday will feature a variety of film blocks, including a kids block starting at the Golden State at 9:30 a.m., as well as a variety of surfing films, shark films and shark conservation panels.
Sunday will take a spiritual angle on the ocean conservation theme, beginning at 11 a.m. with a panel discussion on "The Spirituality of Sustainability," followed by "Pad Yatra," which takes viewers on a trek across Nepal, learning to be good ocean stewards along the way.
If you can't make it to earlier screenings, you'll get a second chance at Sunday evening's Best of Festival Screening at Golden State starting at 5:30 p.m., followed by a BLUE celebration of the sea wrap-up party (see website for details).
Lily Dayton can be reached at email@example.com. GO!
·What: BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit
·Where: Various locations throughout Monterey; see www.blueoceanfilmfestival.org for film screening and event schedule and locations
·When: Monday, Sept. 24-Sunday, Sept. 30
·Tickets: Tickets may be purchased individually, or a variety of passes can be purchased (see website for details and pricing); some events are admission-free; tickets and passports available at www.blueoceanfilmfestival.org or at BLUE's Festival Office, 663 Lighthouse Ave. Unit F, Pacific Grove, (920-3527); day-of-show tickets sold at venue, one hour prior to program (provided seating availability)
·Information: www.blueoceanfilmfestival.org or 920-3527