A Celebration of Maritime Heritage


World Ocean Observatory is partnering with Main Street Bucksport for the 4th annual International Maritime Film Festival, a celebration of maritime heritage, spirit of adventure, concern for the environment, and ingenuity of boats and waterborne pursuits. This week we introduce the film fest and share their call for submissions. And we reflect on the importance and power of the written word, photographs and film to make us aware of issues and to act toward change with new conviction.


Learn more about submitting a film at maritimefilmfestival.com/submissions-and-prizes

In pursuit of tools by which to portray the ocean in its full dimension and to convince our neighbors and our leaders that it must be respected and conserved for the benefit of all life on earth, we use words, and sounds and images as means to affect our senses and our emotions and thereafter to shift our reasoning and our actions toward sustainability and preservation of its systems.

Words can paint a picture and, as primarily a wordsmith, I am dedicated to that method as means. Sounds can speak for themselves, just as they can augment words. The underwater calls of whales, for instance, is a hauntingly beautiful case in point — an eerie, almost alien vibration that evokes response, implies connection among creatures that are individual yet communal, and declares possession of an environment that reveals another mystery of life.

And then there are pictures.

If we are inundated with words and sounds these days, then we are being maxi-whelmed by pictures — the constant flash of forms and compositions that suffuse our senses into a relentless experience of light. We have begun to communicate with visuals, like hieroglyphs in a sequence of optical meanings intended to add up to something, typically awareness of a person or product that we are commanded to consume. We are diverted by stories told visually — graphics and cartoons, ads and animations, films as narrative and documentary, and social media where some communication strategies are based on the easy click bait of pretty pictures by which to enlist viewers exponentially to a cause.

The key understanding here is that words, sounds, and images are the tools of narrative — the art of using story to reveal people, places, and ideas in a stream of encounter and meaning. There is tradecraft: the manipulation of time, voice, place, and metaphor to reveal connections and relevance, and to engage an audience rationally and emotionally. A good story will make you angry and make you cry, make you laugh and make you think, make you aware and make you act with new conviction.


The ocean is an infinite seascape for story, and to that end, the World Ocean Observatory has announced a partnership with Maine Street Bucksport for the presentation of the 4th Annual International Maritime Film Festival, a celebration of maritime vitality through films on a broad range of themes from yachting and leisure, to boatbuilding and restoration, history and cultural heritage, environmental and ocean science, and more.

If you know of such films, recently produced, please urge their immediate submission. To submit a film or to learn more, visit maritimefilmfestival.com. Maritime Film Festival judging is not category-specific; all films will be evaluated in relation to each other, in one of two tracks: Feature Length (40 minutes or more), or Shorts (under 40 minutes). All films are to be in English, or to carry English subtitles. Prizes are to be awarded and promoted through the World Ocean Observatory social media audience of over 800,000 Citizens of the Ocean worldwide. The festival will take place at the historic Alamo Theatre in Bucksport, Maine, September 27- 29, 2019. Other festival sponsors include WoodenBoat Magazine and The Island Institute.

These films deserve an audience far beyond midcoast Maine. Our intent to package this year’s films with winners from the prior year’s festivals into a national tour for showings by maritime museums, environmental groups, educational institutions, and conservation organizations with interest in maritime affairs. If your organization would like to sponsor an event locally, please contact [email protected] for further information.

Words, sounds, and images: these can be combined into a powerful medium for communication. Alexander von Humboldt, the great 19th century naturalist traveled the world observing and recording his surroundings in his journals, his descriptions, and his drawings; in Views of Nature: Contemplations on the Sublime Phenomena of Creation with Scientific Illustrations, published in 1850, he is said to have invented a new genre of nature writing, combining ”lively prose and rich landscape descriptions with detailed and evocative visual observations” that found its way down through a sequence of observers such as Charles Darwin, John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachael Carson, Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez, among many others. Today, film is the medium of choice and the extension of this tradition, its purpose is the same: to describe, convince, and protect the full dimension of Nature.

The International Maritime Film Festival is sponsored by Main Street Bucksport in collaboration with the World Ocean Observatory. September 27 – 29, 2019

PETER NEILL is founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory and is author of The Once and Future Ocean: Notes Toward a New Hydraulic Society. He is also the host of World Ocean Radio, a weekly podcast addressing ocean issues, upon which this blog is inspired.