From the audience’s point of view, every San Diego Undersea Film exhibition (SDUFEX) gets better and better. From a film maker’s point of view, every one gets tougher and tougher. That was the case for the 11th annual San Diego Undersea Film Exhibition, held last Friday and Saturday, September 17 and 18 at Qualcomm Hall. This exhibition has taken on a life of its own, as film makers and attendees alike have highlighted it on their annual to-do lists.
One reason is the state of the art venue. Located on the sprawling Qualcomm campus, the theater features a state of the art digital projection system streamed from a Grass Valley intelligent digital disc recorder. Nothing matches the thrill of seeing your video on a major league screen and hearing the audience reaction. For the five minutes the film runs, you know how Jim Cameron feels during a Hollywood première.
An enthusiastic crowd of about 400 people showed up each night, and enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the film makers who were there. For divers in the audience, the larger than life footage provided inspiration for new sights and destinations on their bucket list. For non divers it lifted the veil of the surface to show the beauty, the challenges, and the environmental impacts underneath.
Thirty two films were selected to be shown among 55 international entries, by a panel of independent judges: Emmy award-winning television producer Shannon Hull, photo pro Andy Sallmon, and Women’s Diving Hall of Fame member Bonnie Toth.
Pete Fowler was the MC on Friday night. Leading off the program was “Indonesia’s Reef Warriors” by Roger Uzun. It featured incredible predation footage by creatures ranging from a Rhinopius to a flamboyant cuttlefish. Jim and Pat Stayer showed mobs of mantas at Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives. Steve Douglas submitted a film on the battle over the use of a local beach by seals and humans, presenting both points of view on a contentious subject. Mary Lynn Price showed “Positive Living,” a tribute to handicapped free divers in Hawaii. Howard Hall’s “Maldives in Red” started with a nondescript coral landscape that had people wondering. When a whale shark suddenly appeared underneath the camera they realized why. Tim Blanton, Randy Bundschuh, Bill Macdonald, Cindy Lipthay, Kris Wilk, Andrea Schumacher, David Vik, Richard Theiss, Richard Morris, and Conservation International also had films shown Friday night.
John Ellerbrock took on the MC role on Saturday. We always try to start with a bang, and this time Leandro Blanco did a satirical piece on octopuses, taken from a 1952 National Geographic text, narrated by David Doubilet. Kris Wilk showed super macro of spawning Christmas tree worms. Richard Morris took the audience under Arctic ice. We had expected several DSLR videos, but the only one that made the cut was Eric Cheng’s breathtaking take on sperm whales in Dominica. Octopus behavior was the subject of Walter Marti’s film. The grand finale was Howard Hall’s “Cocos Island May 2010,” as the quintessential pro shooter showed the rest of us how it’s done. Other Saturday presenters included Eric Hanauer, Joe Ruocco, J.D. Duff, Tim Blanton, Mike Boom, Bill Macdonald, Conservation International, Roger Uzun, Richard Theiss, and Steve Cohen.
Ellerbrock hosted a film makers’ social at the Gates factory Saturday afternoon, and the organizing committee held an after party at the Oasis Bar and Grill. Committee members are John Ellerbrock, Pete Fowler, Ken Given, Bob Gladden, Eric Hanauer, Mick Hutchins, Gene Lafferty, Barbara Lloyd, Chuck Nicklin, Roz Nicklin, Mary Lynn Price, and Karen Straus. It’s a group of people with a wide range of skills who volunteered their time and talents to make this the best UFEX yet. Thanks go to them, the filmmakers, and the most of all, the audience.
Next year’s show is scheduled for September 23 and 24, 2011.