- Nana Van De Poel
Those who need whale sounds to fall asleep, or are simply captivated by the sea and its many mysteries, are in for a treat this fall. In October and November the Australian Ocean Film Festival will be taking over Belgian cinemas to screen award-winning shorts set above and below sea level. From an extraordinary kayaking odyssey to a dive into the extraterrestrial deep end, they show the ocean at its most cinematic.
The vast ocean, its awesome power and its many majestic inhabitants are so inherently cinematic that a lot of independent filmmakers have felt the sea’s pull over the past couple of years and have gladly obliged. Since its birth four years ago, the Australian Film Festival – on a mission to inspire people to ‘respect, enjoy and protect our oceans’ – has selected the cream of the crop of ocean-related shorts to take you on a trip around the globe. Included in their world tour, that drops by New Zealand, Hong Kong, China and the UK, is also tiny Belgium. In Flanders Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven will be treated to a night of ocean joy while Namur and Mons are the lucky ones in Wallonia. However the festival will be making its biggest splash in Brussels, opening its Belgian tour with three days of screenings from October 27th to October 29th.
Each night offers a two-hour extravaganza of award-winning documentaries that feature the ocean as their beating heart. Six short films ranging from anything between five and 43 minutes long will be hitting the silver screen, backed by the overwhelming cinematic force of the sea. Shortest in the bunch is Like Nothing Else. Shot on the paradise-like island of Hawaii as a commercial for NeilPryde, the world’s most talented windsurfers can be seen breaking the waves. If you don’t feel the urge to get into water sports after its abundance of slow motion shots of tanned men and women gliding across the water on their colorful sails, you probably never will. Of a similar inspiring nature is The Accord, a creative account of what being a professional surfer in Iceland is like. While you can almost feel the North Atlantic wind slapping you across the face, the country’s gorgeous panoramic vistas are rapturous.
Engaging on a whole other level is Gold of Bengal, a documentary that lasts about three quarters of an hour and is candy to ecowarriors the world over. In it we join Corentin de Chatelperron on his peculiar adventure amidst the Indonesian islands, a trip the Frenchman embarked upon on a homemade sampan he had constructed entirely out of jute composite. With no one for company except for two hens – that were also there for their eggs – and with a small greenhouse that allowed him to grow nutritious potatoes, the wide-eyed young engineer lasted for six months cruising around the Gulf of Bengal. Equally insane and admirable is Kayaking the Aleutians, two women’s epic conquest of remote Alaskan islands illustrious for their bad and dangerous weather. Luckily there are otters, seals and shower-disturbing bears along the way to brighten things up.
The North Pacific humpback whale – also the festival’s mammoth mascot – is the subject of One Voice. While at one point in the 1970s this majestic species was threatened with extinction because of mankind’s cruel hunts, it has rebounded to count over 25,000 in numbers today. A short but hopeful tale on what can happen when conservation is handled correctly. Going further down to the bottom is Ocean Stories: The Halls. Emmy-award winning couple Howard and Michel Hall have dedicated themselves to registering the underwater world. This time they dive down to the deep sea, where life takes on a curious, otherworldly quality.
Tickets: €16,5 (pre-sale) – €19 (at the door). Check out the full Belgian tour here.