The world’s premiere ocean-focused film festival and conservation event, BLUE is expected to bring an international cast of filmmakers, photographers, explorers, researchers and marine advocates to downtown St. Petersburg for one week November. Officially known as the Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit, the event was held last year in Monaco with the support of Prince Albert II, and will rotate every other year between the two cities.

According to BLUE’s chief executive and co-founder, Deborah Kinder, Tampa Bay was chosen as BLUE’s home base because of its engagement in the marine sciences and the arts. “I am inspired by St. Pete’s level of commitment to good stewardship of the ocean and the environment,” said Kinder. “We’re so excited to be a part of these two beautiful international destinations that are deeply committed to healthy oceans.”

Open to the public, the festival will present over 150 ocean film screenings along with a diverse array of ocean conservation seminars, evening programs, children’s activities, artist appearances and social events at various venues.

The Mahaffey Theatre will be outfitted to showcase 3D presentations in ultra high-definition for BLUE’s opening night special screening of “James Cameron’s DeepSea Challenge 3D”. The thrilling documentary chronicles the Oscar Award- winning director’s journey to fulfill his lifelong dream of diving to the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, in a futuristic submersible of his own design.

Another exciting presentation of note is Fabien Cousteau’s “Mission 31.” The grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau will discuss his recent expedition, living 31 days submerged in the Aquarius, the world’s only underwater marine habitat, which is located off the coast of the Florida Keys.

The festival will also present a special screening of “Mission Blue”. The Netflix production follows Dr. Sylvia A. Earle around the globe on what has become her life-long mission to protect the ocean. Widely recognized as one of the world’s most influential ambassadors for the ocean, Dr. Earle has been called a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and the first “Hero for the Planet” by Time Magazine.

Sir Robert Swan, the world’s first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, will deliver the Opening Keynote, “Leadership on the Edge.” Also, renowned Australian photographer, explorer and author, Michael Aw, will be exhibiting photographs and giving workshops throughout the festival.

Other big names include marine life artist Wyland, known for his 100 Whaling Walls public art murals around the world, and National Geographic photographer David Doubilet.

Families can get involved in Blue Ocean during a coastal cleanup on November 2 and there will be programming for children and teens throughout the week. A special event in Tampa will be the debut of the IMAX film “Journey to South Pacific” at the Museum of Science and Industry. Special guest will be renowned IMAX filmmaker Greg MacGillivray who has produced some of the most notable IMAX films including “Everest” and “The Living Sea.”

In a salute to the festival on November 8, The Florida Orchestra will perform the soundtrack to accompany the film “Ocean Voyagers,” documenting the five-year journey of a baby humpback whale and his mother as they travel seemingly boundless oceans together.

Most films will be screened the weekend of November 8-9 at Muvico Sundial 20, with the prestigious Blue Ocean Film Awards, “the Academy Awards of ocean cinematography,” according to Kinder, set for November 7 at Mahaffey Theater. “We are still finalizing the schedule and appearances, so keep watching the website for updates,” she added.

Festival headquarters will be the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront with other venues including The Mahaffey Theater, Muvico Sundial 20, USF St. Pete campus, the Museum of Fine Arts, Dali Museum and Poynter Institute. Tickets range from individual screenings for $12.50 to one-day passes for $250 and special week-long packages including special events for $1,250. For more details and to purchase advance tickets, go to

By Marcia Biggs

Article written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine

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