'Stunning' NZ film festival showcases the best of our oceans

Ocean lovers can take the plunge this week at a documentary film festival all about the sea.

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour hopes to inspire audiences to explore, love, and protect our oceans.

"Some of these films, especially underwater, are so stunning and so beautiful, but without something like this would never get seen at a beautiful big cinema," says festival director Jemima Robinson.

All the films are documentaries, this year covering topics like free-diving, surfing, and marine life.

Founded in Australia five years ago, this is its fourth year visiting New Zealand, with screenings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

Auckland and Wellington's first screenings sold out, prompting second showings next week.

"It's really beautiful and assuring that we're on the right thing," says Ms Robinson.

"Quite surprising, and really lovely that there's so many ocean-loving people coming together."

The festival also plays in the UK, US, China, Italy, and Belgium. Three-hundred entrants have been whittled down to nine short and medium-length films - and three of them have a Kiwi connection.

"It inspires local film-makers to know they can have their film on the big screen all around the world as well. The fact there's three out of nine from New Zealand, I think that's pretty impressive, something to be proud of," says Ms Robinson.

"I guess in a place like New Zealand, surrounded by ocean, it's everywhere. I think it's omnipresent in so many people's lives and so many people connect with it."

One of those three is Turtley Addicted, directed by Kiwi Tess Brosnan, which follows the work of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

"It's a really happy story and I think we need all the happy and inspiring stories we can get from the ocean at the moment," says Ms Brosnan.

She says the biggest challenge in the movie was filming a turtle's release - as she only had one chance to get the crucial shot.

"That's quite hard, you know, being on a boat and you're in this tight space and there's this extremely large animal, everything's slippery and there's the camera and elbows everywhere," she says.

It's the sort of film the festival looks for, as it shows ordinary people doing their bit to help, as opposed to heavy-handed environmental films.

"It can be kind of hitting you over the head with those messages, and it's really depressing," Ms Robinson explains.

"I think also unless it's crafted carefully it can also disempower people, it can be such a big problem that the individual person thinks, 'Well, there's nothing I can do!'"

"The message that I want people to take from this is 'don't sit at home being sad at this sort of thing, don't get too stressed out about ocean conservation', because you can actually get up and do something," says Ms Brosnan.

Anyone can submit a film to play at the festival, meaning if you love the ocean, it could be your work on the big screen next year.


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