Woods Hole Film Festival: “Oceans”

July 28, 2011

The gorgeous and awe-inspiring feature documentary “Oceans” opens the Woods Hole Film Festival tomorrow at 7 PM. The film will be shown in Redfield Auditorium on Water Street.

Produced by Disneynature (2010, 84 minutes) and directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud and narrated by Pierce Brosnan, the film offers one spectacular shot after another, from every possible angle, of the amazing creatures that live in the oceans of the world, and of the oceans themselves, its vastness, its power, its calmness, and the many and varied habitats within it.

In one remarkable sequence, huge numbers of dolphins race through the water, leaping and diving, chasing a school of sardines, while, overhead, flocks of seabirds soar and divebomb into the water, after the fish themselves. Soon they are joined by whales and sharks.

Later we see whales breeching, one after another, then quietly tending to their young. We see seals and sea lions basking in the sun and bounding through the water, their journeys occasionally cut short by a great white shark, or an orca.

We see baby sea turtles emerging from their nests, trying to make it to the water before being scooped up by a frigate bird. Only one in 1,000 turtles make it to the sea.

There are crabs, sea slugs, and strange and exotic creatures of all kinds, such as the blanket octopus, or the dugong, a large marine mammal that once lived entirely on land.

The film mentions, but only briefly, problems such as endangered species, overfishing, unintended capture in fish nets (by-catch), pollution, and the effects of climate change.

Music and sound effects are used well, never overused, to illustrate the playfulness of dolphins, the drama of life-and-death struggles between predator and prey, and the relentless march of spider crab battalions across the ocean floor.

There is not, however, a lot of information about any particular species or detailed explanations about their behavior. Often the narration simply stops as the viewer is left to wonder and imagine on their own. Many times, it seems, more information would be helpful.

Yet, there is a certain advantage to the minimal narrative. Rather than barrage us with facts and figures, the film allows us to make our own interpretations, and it make encourage many viewers to seek out additional sources of information on the ocean and its inhabitants. And the minimal narration probably makes the film more accessible for children.

Viewers will learn that there is an incredible world beneath the surface of the ocean, one that is well worth exploring.

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