Undersea film fest “Water, Sea & the Oceans” reaches 10

Steve Lichtag, photo: Alžběta Švarcová

Thursday saw the opening of a small international film festival called Water, Sea & the Oceans in Hluboká nad Vltavou in South Bohemia. In its tenth inception, it is dedicated to undersea adventure and underwater life. Steve Lichtag, a diver and award-winning filmmaker who has made documentaries about everything from Great Whites to endangered crawdads, is the festival’s founder and president; I spoke to him about the event’s history and aims.

Steve Lichtag,  photo: Alžběta Švarcová
"The festival is now in its tenth year. Originally, it was held in northern Bohemia but since we have moved south. As someone who spent a lot of the time underwater and on the ocean, I wanted to found a festival that would share with others the wonders of the sea, and underwater life. The festival has grown since and we have bigger audiences and better and better films, so I am very happy with how things have been developing."

How many films are in official competition this year?

"We received 100 films or so in all, of which 40 were in competition and a selection of a final seven was made."

Do at least some of the attendees have experience with, for example, deep sea diving or similar disciplines?

"I think we have a very well-balance audience, so it depends. Some will have more experience with salt water, others with fresh water, some are interested in learning about undersea life and the environment."

The festival began on Thursday with a film called The Dolphins of Shark Bay: can you tell me a bit more about it or some of the productions viewers should see?

"That is an amazing and complex film and viewers will marvel at how well it was shot. A lot of the documentaries that will be shown are feature-length and had major budgets of say 15 million US dollars. Another film being shown is David Hannan's Planet Ocean, considered a top work about undersea life at the moment. That film is premiering with us and in New York and London."

'The Dolphins of Shark Bay',  photo: archive of BBC
Guests are an important aspect of the festival as are lectures where the filmmakers communicate directly with the public...

"Absolutely. We are very happy to have David Hannan with us this year and he will giving a talk about coral spawning."

Other talks include ship graveyards from WW II and aspects related to the environment.

"The environment is a big part of the festival because we want to see sea life continue down the line. The festival should be entertaining but environmental issues are a priority, something that children coming with their schools learn about at the screenings which are free."

You yourself have spent a great deal of time on projects of your own: what's the longest you can stay away from the sea before you get restless?

(laughs) "After a week of being back! I always want to head back. But sometimes The post-production work on documentaries keeps me away for up to a year."