Director highlights 2017 Waimea Ocean Film Festival films, speakers and special guests

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WAIMEA — Selecting films to be featured at the 6th Annual Waimea Ocean Film Festival is a year-round job for Tania Howard, the festival’s founder and director. After all, she decides which movies make the cut.


WAIMEA — Selecting films to be featured at the 6th Annual Waimea Ocean Film Festival is a year-round job for Tania Howard, the festival’s founder and director. After all, she decides which movies make the cut.

“The process of finding the most exciting, fun, interesting and important films from around the world to bring back to the festival, along with filmmakers and speakers, is an enormous process through the course of the year,” she said. “I screen hundreds of films each year and the selection comes together as a tapestry, with the films weaving together to create the whole. Some films are fun and exciting. Some are interesting or thought-provoking. Some provide stories about the islands and people here. Some are very important and about topics we need to understand better for our future.”

The event commences Jan. 2-5 in Waimea with showings at Kahilu Theatre, Parker Theatre, HPA Gates Auditorium and Fairmont Orchid. It continues Jan. 6-10 at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Most of the films are world, U.S., Hawaii or Big Island premieres and, in addition to screenings, the festival includes receptions, Q&As, intimate coffee talks and exhibits.

According to Howard, the festival has three basic categories: Ocean experience — which relates to surfing, paddling or being on the water; island culture — looking at Hawaiian culture as well as other island cultures, along with stories about the people who live on the island; and Ocean environment — looking at the ocean environment and also how what is done on land impacts the sea.

“There is an additional category comprised of inspirational stories about real life heroes — people doing great things, or tackling the odds,” Howard said. “It makes the overall feeling of the festival exciting, positive and upbeat, and leaves people feeling as though there is hope and that they, too, can accomplish things.”

This year, guest star athletes will also be in the spotlight, including surfers Mark Healey, Garrett McNamara and Andrew Cotton. McNamara will sign copies of his new memoir.

While Howard doesn’t pick favorites, she admits some films have made a lasting impression.

“Three that jump to mind are ‘The Weekend Sailor,’ a fun and exciting film; ‘A Plastic Ocean,’ which is a very well done and compelling film on the topic of plastics in the ocean; and ‘The Age of Consequences,’ which is perhaps the most important film we are showing, sharing military concerns about climate change and the military investment in wind and solar,” Howard said.

In addition to film screenings, breakfast talks allow attendees a chance to hear more from the producers themselves on their subject matter and what they learned while making the movies.

“Because we have a sophisticated audience, most of our filmmakers are more established. Breakfast talks are an especially fun part of the event and a way to speak with the filmmakers in a more informal setting,” Howard said. “Among our guests attending, Michele and Howard Hall are considered preeminent among underwater filmmakers and well known especially for large format IMAX films. Howard was director of underwater cinematography and Michele of underwater photography for the film, ‘Humpback Whales,’ so loved last year.”

She continued, “Another special guest this year is David Titley, PhD, a frequent guest speaker with an extensive resume which includes leading the Pentagon Task Force on climate change for the U.S. Navy. Curt Morgan is highly regarded in the arena of epic sports cinematography. Adam Leipzig is a former president of National Geographic Films and a senior vice president at Walt Disney Studios, whose film credits include ‘March of the Penguins,’ ‘Dead Poets Society’ and ‘Titus.’ Blye Faust is the producer of ‘Spotlight,’ which took the Academy Award for Best Picture last year. Mario Garcia has been a producer for NBC News for 20 years and is a recipient of three national Emmys for his work.”

Drew Harvell, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, will share her new film, “A Fragile Legacy” and recently published book, “A Sea of Glass,” at the festival.

“It has been featured and reviewed by Discovery, Scientific American, The Guardian, The New York Times and Nature, with full chapters excerpted in Natural History and American Scientist,” Howard added.

For a virtual reality experience, M. Sanjayan, PhD will present his experience diving the reefs of Raja Ampat at the Fairmont and Four Seasons.

The festival isn’t just for adults. Even Howard’s daughter plays a role.

“My daughter, who is 12, usually sits enthralled watching these films when she has a chance to see them. I think sometimes we don’t give children or teens enough credit in their interest in real stories,” she said. “For children of all ages, ‘Wild Yellowstone’ should be a favorite. It was one of the films my daughter screened with me and she squealed in delight throughout. She and a friend also were compelled by ‘A Plastic Ocean and Vamizi – Cradle of Coral.’ ‘Dog Power’ should appeal to all ages and the two films by Sisbro Studios — ‘The Marvelous Musical Report’ and ‘My Haggan Dream’ — to our younger audience still.

“In addition, ‘The Making of an Ancient Forest’ and ‘The Canary Islands’ are beautiful films that appeal to a younger audience. Tom Mustill also returns with the BBC production of ‘Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants,’ and ‘Bat Man of Mexico’ will be shown for a second year while he is here, with a Q&A following the showing. If you missed this film, you should catch it this year, and ask him questions about filming in a cave full of bat guano. Cambridge educated and a director for BBC, he is perhaps the funniest person I’ve ever listened to speak. You have no idea how entertaining making a film can be.”

The best value for the Waimea Ocean Film Festival is the four-day pass, she advised. Breakfast talks are reserved for next Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A special addition to this year’s event will be the Voyager Exhibit that opens Jan. 2 at Kahilu Theatre featuring images from the voyage throughout 2016.


Tickets and full schedule:

Info or questions: Call 854-6095 or email