Newswise — Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists are featured in two short films at this year’s Woods Hole Film Festival (WHFF). In addition, scientists will also participate in Q&A sessions connected to three of the festival’s feature-length, ocean-themed entries.
The short films, “Divergent Warmth” and “Beyond the Gulf Stream” are part of a program titled “The Blue Between Us,” offered on-demand from July 25 to August 1 as part of the festival’s virtual program. In “Divergent Warmth,” filmmaker Megan Lubetkin gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the synchronized ballet aboard a research vessel during a recent expedition to the East Pacific Rise led by Texas A&M scientist Jason Sylvan. Experimental music provides rhythm to imagery of deck operations, launch and recovery of the human-occupied submersible Alvin, and other-worldly views of seafloor hydrothermal vents and lava flows. Interwoven throughout is an evocative reading of Adrienne Rich’s poem, “Diving into the Wreck.”
Dan Fornari, a WHOI emeritus research scholar, acted as associate producer of the 10-minute film. As one of the scientists on the December 2019 expedition, he invited Lubetkin, herself a scientist and the creative exhibits coordinator with the Ocean Exploration Trust, to assist with subsea camera operations and video data management on board. Lubetkin spent her spare time shooting additional video, which she edited together while still on the ship, which she combined with underwater imagery to produce a first draft of “Divergent Warmth.”
“I was blown away. It was just fabulous,” Fornari said of his first viewing. “It captures the spirit of going out to sea and being involved in this exploratory effort in the alien realm, where very few people get to go.”
The complex winter currents that collide off the coast of Cape Hatteras are the focus of “Beyond the Gulf Stream,” a short documentary by the Georgia-based production company MADLAWMEDIA. Filmed aboard the WHOI-operated research vessel Neil Armstrong, the 10-minute film features physical oceanographers Magdalena Andres, Glen Gawarkiewicz, and graduate student Jacob Forsyth as they share their perspectives on the challenges and rewards of doing scientific research at sea, often in difficult conditions.
“I think we have a responsibility to communicate science and the process of doing of science to the public,” said Andres about the film, which was produced in collaboration with WHOI and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography at the University of Georgia. “It does a really nice job of capturing life at sea in the wintertime.”
As a scientist who uses video to capture data from the ocean depths, Fornari highly attuned to the impact that visual media can have in capturing the public’s imagination about the ocean.
"These kinds of artistic expressions help open doors to people’s minds.” he said. “That’s crucial for getting the public to understand how critically important the oceans are. Then maybe more students will say, ‘I want to be an ocean scientist when I grow up.’"
In addition to the shorts program itself, WHOI scientists, staff, and students will also participate in "Filmmaker Chats" open to the public and broadcast via Zoom, as well as the WHFF Facebook and YouTube channels. Maddux-Lawrence will take questions about "Beyond the Gulf Stream" on Sunday, July 19, beginning at 9:00 a.m. On Friday, July 31 at 9:00 a.m., Lubetkin will appear with Fornari, as well as Alvin pilot Drew Bewley, MIT-WHOI Joint Program graduate student Lauren Dykman, and Texas A&M graduate student Charlie Holmes II to discuss the making of and science behind "Divergent Warmth." Recordings of both sessions will also be available for viewing afterward on the festival website.
Both films were shot on research cruises funded by the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Sciences Division.
In addition, WHOI scientists will add their perspective to Q&A sessions following several ocean-themed, feature-length films selected for the festival:
- Thursday, July 30, at 10:00 p.m.: Research specialist Hauke Kite-Powell will answer questions related to aquaculture and seafood in relation to the film “Fish & Men.
- Saturday, August 1, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.: Marine chemist Chris Reddy will answer questions about microplastics in relation to the film “Microplastics Madness.”
- Saturday, August 1, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.: Marine biologist Simon Thorrold will answer questions about marine protected areas and fishing in connection with the film “Current Sea.”
- Films featuring WHOI scientists will be screened as part of “The Blue Between Us” shorts program at the virtual Woods Hole Film Festival, which may be viewed online by festival passholders and individual ticketholders during the festival, which runs from Saturday, July 25, to Saturday, August 1. Tickets and more information is available here.
- WHOI scientists will also participate in Q&A sessions associated with several ocean-themed, feature-length festival films.
- More information is available on the festival website.