Back home after the genius of the Sundance Film Festival

Well, we are just back from the Sundance Film Festival and what it all means  is only just beginning to sink in.  The audiences loved our film, which warns that this may be the end of the line for fish in the world’s oceans, unless we take care.  All our screenings were packed and followed by spirited Q&As.

Rupert Murray is interview about The End of the Line for Italian television

Rupert Murray is interviewed for Italian television

Perhaps the most gratifying were the two screenings in Salt Lake City because the audiences were made up of members of the public - one was before 200 High School children who asked the best questions of the festival.

Number one, from a 16 year old boy, “Will there be fish to eat when I’m a grandfather?” Good question.

Being so close to the subject for so long, it was easy for us to forget just how shocking and how surprising the story of what is going on in the sea is to most people.

Even the questioner who said he knew most of the facts fell silent when we told him that in the week we arrived there was a piece in Science linking the depletion of fish in the world’s oceans with global warming, and confirming our worst predictions about the sea.

Ours was a very big subject indeed.  We hope we have done it justice.  Certainly our audiences thought we did.

What many people who saw the film commented on was the fact that there was an optimistic ending: we can do something about the destruction of the oceans if we act now.From a non-filmmakers perspective, you notice that this festival is so many things, which is why it is so important.  It is a raising of the latest, most compelling issues by the programmers, who chose to include our film out of hundreds of others: one of them was kind enough to introduce it as one of the best documentaries in the competition.

And it is a selection of the best in new and interesting documentary, drama and art film by judges who embody the cinematic and entertainment industry tastes of the day – which you may or may not share.

Al Gore didn’t win a cinematography prize for An Inconvenient Truth, a film, as far as I know: that was about a lecture, with slides, about the dessication of the soil and other symptoms of climate change.  Nor did we, despite our film’s stunning visual appearance.

A film about over-fishing in a lyrical idiom, however good, was always going to struggle emotionally or cinematically against such peak viewing fare as Pop Idol in Afghanistan (Afghan Star), child abuse in South African orphanages (Rough Aunties), or even established scandals like the killing of dolphins by the Japanese (The Cove).  But that is the genius of Sundance.

We were, in the idiom of my industry, the newspaper industry, the serious Page 4 environmental lead in the same glittering edition of a paper that had visceral human interest stories on the front - not that we didn’t have some human interest too.

We were honoured that our film was chosen at all.  The audience reaction has told us that our film is valid, lyrical, immense, cutting-edge in terms of issues, and that people want to see it.

The Sundance story that affected me most?  It was told me by a Canadian entertainment reporter who was at our film’s sparsely populated press and industry screening – normally an emotionless, hard-bitten affair.

The bad news was that it was at 10.00 pm on the night of President Obama’s inauguration and there were only 35 people there. The good news was that at the end they applauded spontaneously.

This, she said, hasn’t happened at a press and industry screening since she can’t remember when.


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