VIFF brings ocean protection to the big screen with BLUE

Making its North American debut on the shores of the Salish Sea, BLUE may be one of the most important films at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. BLUE is the story about our ocean in danger, and the story of our ocean is the story of life on Earth.

An Australian film that’s equal part love letter and call to action, BLUE views the ocean through the stories of people working to protect it. In these interwoven narratives, we see the jarring effects of shark finning, industrial fishing, pollution, plastics, and climate change on our ocean life.

BLUE’s narrators have profound connections to the places and animals that they work to protect. Most of them have been fighting for decades, watching as our ocean transforms dramatically. Their stories and the film’s captivating visuals paint a clear, compelling picture of catastrophic ocean change.

Parts of the film are not easy to watch. There’s no holding punches when it comes to true devastation. BLUE will open your eyes to the severity of the crisis. There are many layers to peel away, and BLUE peels them back beautifully and painfully.

The hardest hitting moment in the film is also its most empowering. Watching a young seabird empty its stomach of familiar plastics - bottle caps, packaging, even construction materials - spells out a harsh truth: this is our fault. But when the same bird is rescued and rehabilitated, it’s human hands that bring healing and sanctuary.

If the crisis in the oceans is our collective fault, then it’s our responsibility to fix it. But as BLUE illustrates, we shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the grim scale of these problems. We have the power to become ocean guardians. We have every tool we need to protect the oceans. We just need to take action.

BLUE offers hope, through the lens of ocean conservation. There are simple steps, like reducing our use of plastics and being conscious of our eating habits. But real change comes when we engage with our government and demand effective ocean protection. On this topic, BLUE explains marine protected areas: safe and quiet places where sea life can find sanctuary from threats, like harmful shipping, fishing, and industrial practices.

While Canada has been gradually setting aside land as parks and protected areas, our oceans are much less protected. Marine protected areas, which act like national parks for our ocean, are crucial to protecting habitat and managing harmful industrial activity. Our ocean needs more large, effective protected areas, and that means we need to fight for them.

The call for marine protected areas is especially relevant along the coastal waters of B.C. Our endangered Southern Resident Orcas are contending with many of the threats addressed in BLUE: pollution, shipping, a lack of prey from over-fishing, and entanglement, all of which could be managed by developing a network of marine protected areas. A National Marine Conservation Area in the Southern Strait of Georgia would protect the home of the orcas and help the species build enough resilience to recover. For those who see BLUE and wonder, “what next?” - this critical ocean habitat needs your voice.

This is the true beauty of BLUE: like our oceans, the issues addressed in the film are borderless. They belong everywhere, to all of us. The future of the ocean, its well-being or demise, belongs to you as well.

Watch the trailer: https://bluethefilm.org/

For more information and to see BLUE: goviff.org/blue

Read about the proposed National Marine Conservation Area in the Southern Strait of Georgia: http://cpawsbc.org/campaigns/southern-strait-of-georgia

Images: top - Madison Stewart documents shark finning; middle - Phillip Mango with the Nanum Wungthim Land & Sea Rangers removing ghost nets; bottom - Lucas Handley, marine biologist and underwater photographer, freedives with whales. All photos credited to BLUE, 2017.