Blue was the word of the day from September 4-7 at two venues in Santa Monica, where the Blue Planet Film Festival and Forum took up residence. The festival came to the Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club and the Santa Monica Playhouse for Labor Day weekend, aiming to shed light on environmental issues, eco-friendly living, sustainability, and animal welfare. Though it was the first annual festival, it looks like it won’t be the last.
The mission of the non-profit festival is to screen films that raise mainstream awareness about saving the earth and ending the suffering of animals at human hands. Blue Planet Film Festival Executive Director, Mira Tweti knows firsthand about making art that centers on animals.
Her film, Little Miss Dewie: a Duckumentary, has been accepted to 20 film festivals.
“When I first started searching, I found there were very few festivals – only 61 worldwide out of approximately 5,300 – that focused on animal welfare and environmental issues, the most pressing issues of our time.”
An animal welfare and environmental investigative journalist by trade, Tweti also has an extensive background in feature film public relations, having worked for Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Disney, and other studios on 85 major movie campaigns.
“It was a perfect storm of career experience for me,” Tweti said.
The festival screened 47 films out of the 140 submissions received. Films that made the final cut included A Matter of Degrees, which depicts New York State in the prehistoric age, touching on climate change in the shaping of human existence. Narrated by Sigourney Weaver, the film reminds us that mastodons once roamed the valleys of the Adirondack Mountains. Also in the mix was The Antarctica Challenge, a stunning homage to the South Pole, containing sobering information about global warming. On the animal welfare side of things, A Place to Land follows unwanted pet parrots in the United States, paying homage to the bird sanctuaries that try to save the animals. Tickets for every film were priced at a mere $6.50 and $1 of every ticket sold went toward the cause of the film featured on the ticket.
Though film screenings were a major element of the festival, the screen wasn’t the only tool Tweti used to reach audiences. Film-goers participated in several themed events that were linked to the screenings, including a beach-release of rehabbed waterfowl with the International Bird Research and Rescue Center, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases thousands of oiled and injured birds a year at its San Pedro facility.
“It was very moving,” Tweti said. “The audience saw films about city wildlife, such as ducks and a swan, and their plight. Then, they got to see real water birds and connect with them. You rarely get to be that close to a pelican on the ground. At the beach, when their cages were opened, they waddled out and you got to look a pelican in the eye. And that’s the heart connection – between films about birds and the real birds – that I wanted to facilitate.”
Tweti plans to take the festival on a worldwide, starting with a stop in San Diego in October. She said it will ultimately return to Santa Monica next year for the second annual event.
“Its home is Santa Monica, and that’s where it will always launch from,” Tweti said.
To be added to the mailing list for the Blue Planet Film Festival, or to get more information, e-mail [email protected]