by Amy Rath
Our 2015 Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival and the launch of the newly founded Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has left Gray’s Reef staff and the Savannah community buzzing with energy and motivated to plunge into the new year with a renewed sense of inspiration for protecting our ocean and Gray’s Reef. Special guests included oceanographer, conservationist, and National Geographic explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle with her film Mission Blue, and visual effects specialist and Deep Sea Challenge film director John Bruno.
Complimenting these exploration films was Swain’s Island, bringing light to the natural system, history, and culture of the Sanctuary. A few other very special guests to the festival included our own fearless leader, Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Dan Basta and Regional Director of the Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Region Billy Causey, with President and Vice President of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Jason Patlis and Allison Alexander, and NMSF board member Jim Crowley.
An all-hands-on-deck event, the success of this weekend festival is attributed to the commitment of the full staff of Gray’s Reef with more than a dozen volunteers, and the additional support and attention of these national and regional leaders.
The line-up of films this year brought an estimated 1,500 guests to the ocean film festival held at the Lucas Theater in historic downtown Savannah. The weekend kicked-off with a gala to launch the Gray’s Reef Foundation, followed by a two-day schedule of fascinating and inspiring short and feature-length documentary films, and wrapped up with a party on the stage of the theater. For the first time this year, the ocean film festival presented an opportunity to raise support not only for ocean conservation initiatives, but also for the research, resource protection, and community outreach programs of Gray’s Reef through the new Gray’s Reef Foundation