- This past weekend the first Hamptons Conservation & Wildlife Film Festival was held at Bay Street Theatre
in Sag Harbor. The Festival held a launch party on Friday, attended by film makers, and keynote speaker Fabien Cousteau
, grandson of the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Cousteau's grandfather, among his considerable accomplishments, designed and built the first scuba diver regulator (acqua lung) in the 1950s, as well as the first underwater camera housing apparatus more than 50 years ago which, at the time, could hold only 13 minutes of film. Revolutionary design for its time, a film about Cousteau and his advancements in the field was screened by his grandson at Friday's opening. "Ten Fathoms Deep" (Castle Films) is still a compelling bit of footage that only hinted at future possibilities which the former French naval officer spent a lifetime
achieving - the safest and most practical manner that allows man to explore and research the deep oceans of the world.
Film maker Daniel Azarian discusses his PSA "Save Lolita."
Speaking with Fabien Cousteau before he addressed attendees gathered for the screenings, at the lovely cocktail party that launched the event on Friday, he revealed that he and the Advisory Board "Hope regular fascination becomes engrossing and empowering as people protect what they love, and plant life and the oceans support our system. This is a banking system but we must stop making withdrawals and start making deposits. The circulatory system of the planet is water, and more than half of the world's water is readily accessible, so we'd better be aware, alert and involved in sustaining our world's oceans."
Encouraged by his grandfather this eldest of the grandchildren began diving at age four, and accompanied his grandfather on expeditions aboard the famous research vessel Calypso
since age seven.
Cousteau fondly revealed that "My grandfather gave me an infusion and respect for the ocean as a young boy and I have always been fascinated with deep exploration and its impact on us - so I never really wanted to do anything else other than dive, explore, research, report and react."
During his speech to attendees, Cousteau explained "We have only explored less than five percent of the world's oceans," and addressing the most feared occupant of these oceans - sharks - Cousteau went on to reveal that "There are 400 species of sharks, most are less than six feet long, and they are the 'flag bearers of the ocean.'" Discussing the current global climate, Cousteau indicated that Changing Climate, Global Pollution, Loss of Resources are all entwined in the future health of the planet. He also candidly stated "We are eating our own garbage."
In honor of his grandfather's 100th birthday, Cousteau founded Plant a Fish, and launched the program recently with an oyster program in New York Harbor. The organization hopes to release one billion fish back to the world's waters to help sustain undersea life and human life. He also recommended that everyone "Get a seafood guide, be the drain, and use social media
Following Cousteau's remarks and screening, film maker's Pardo Frederico
, "Cotton Tops" was shown. This world premiere is about the Cotton-Top Tamarin, which is endemic to Colombia's Caribbean Coast and its
critically endangered threat of extinction. The socio-economical problems of the region are threatening the Cotton-Top and its habitat. For the past few years, however, the conservation group "Proyecto Titi's" has been working with the community to help preserve the Cotton-Top and give the people an opportunity to succeed. The will for development in the region may be the Tamarins biggest enemy in the near future.
Film maker Pardo Frederico (left) "Cotton Tops" joins in the Q&A following the screenings.
Next, film maker Daniel Azarian's
Public Service Announcement (PSA) created quite an impact regarding the plight of Lolita, a killer whale held in captivity for the past 40 years in a 20-foot-deep tank at the Miami Seaquariumn. "To see such a beautiful 22-foot creature in a tiny 35-foot-wide tank seems inhumane. I felt compelled to do something," explained Azarian. Extremely upsetting, the film raises the issue that perhaps we can make a difference by not visiting facilities that keep not only whales, but dolphins in captivity for entertainment purposes. According to Azarian "Only four times her size at its widest point, the tank appears to be illegally small under Department of Agriculture regulations, and many are calling for retiring Lolita to a coastal sanctuary."
Following Friday's screenings a live concert performed by singer/songwriter Corinne Gibbons
traveling from Singapore was offered, and a portion of the evening's proceeds from the reception are to be donated to Cousteau's non-profit Plant a Fish organization. Films were shown through Saturday and Sunday featuring conservation, natural history and wildlife films with over 50 films from 20 countries - both shorts (one to 25 minutes) and feature (26 to 90 minutes).
Film maker Marshal T. Case
whose film "Migratory Birds and Shade Grown Coffee" was included in the Festival commented "There is much doom and gloom in the media these days, connected to climate change and severe, negative, environmental happenings that capture the spotlight. The Gulf Oil Spill is, of course, the most recent major environmental disaster. I've spent 46 years, since graduating from Cornell University
with a major in wildlife biology and environmental/science/nature education, advocating and working for protection and preservation of wildlife habitat to secure a future for a healthy Planet Earth. I have built nature centers and developed conservation and nature curricula; travelled to Soviet Union-then Russia-working with 'World of Animals' and a huge Russian speaking audience, as a co-presenter of segments called "Co-Warriors" (Russians and Americans working together to protect Nature); developed The American Chestnut Foundation into a network of citizens and scientists working together with a goal of restoring four billion trees lost to Eastern North America from an Asian blight that was discovered in 1904; and have formed more than 30 non-profit conservation organizations/chapters during my career. Every year I ask myself, "Where is the solution to a healthy Planet?". This film addresses the issue of sun grown versus shade grown coffee but concentrates on how any coffee drinking person can be part of positive change by shifting their coffee drinking from sun/open grown coffee to shade grown coffee. Shade grown coffee is more robust and better tasting and it is grown as a fair trade and organic product. With little impact on the environment and native wildlife species, the product can be helpful and profitable to the growers and the owners (that could include large corporate coffee companies, when they 'go green' with pubic demand for shade grown coffee that is now only three percent of total market share)."
Advisory Board Member Betsy Berry, Christopher J. Gervais, President and CEO of the Conservation & Wildlife Film Festivals, film maker Daniel Azarian, keynote speaker Fabien Cousteau, and film maker Landon Latt.
The mission of The Wildlife & Conservation Film Festival is to "Foster awareness, educate, and make people understand that we must protect the world's natural treasures through the use of films, television and other media. The protection of species and habitat is critical not to the survival of humanity but our responsibility to ensure future generations can appreciate and enjoy the planet's natural treasures."
The Wildlife & Conservation Film Festival will travel to cities across the globe to reach a worldwide audience to spread the message of habitat and species conservation, and certainly offered a powerful reminder to all of us that we must indeed pay attention to what we are doing to our water, food, environment and planet, and if we don't start to pay critical attention and take substantial action we will, in fact, 'sleep with the fishes.'
For more information on Plant A Fish go to www.plantafish.org.
For more information on Lolita go to www.savelolita.org.
For more information on the Wildlife & Conservation Film Festivals go to www.WildlifeFilmFestivals.com
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.