Water Is … Youth voices on water stewardship to be shared through film

Thunder Bay International Film Festival features Great Lakes-focused films, ‘Shark Night,’ and more.

Students from northeast Michigan have a chance to be part of this year’s Thunder Bay International Film Festival (TBIFF). The film festival takes place Jan. 27-31, 2016, at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich. The Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival, are hosting this fourth annual event, which explores our world’s oceans and Great Lakes through educational films focusing on such issues as shark fins, marine debris, and lost fishing gear. Featured among these unique films will be the premiere of student-developed films for the TBIFF’s 1st annual Student Film Competition.

Collaborating with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network and partnership, the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine launched this competition to give students an opportunity to be a part of the film festival. Aligned with UN Water and World Water Day’s 2015 theme, #WaterIs, students (grades 6-12) can submit films that explore what water means to them. Film entries, up to 10 minutes in length, will be accepted until Jan. 8. Selected student films will then be shown as part of the film festival on Jan. 31, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. This showing is free and open to the public. For more information about the festival and to enter, please visit Student Film Competition webpage.  Film competition logo

In addition to the Student Film Competition, the festival features different ocean and Great Lakes-focused films. On Thursday, Jan. 28, movie-goers can learn more about our oceans’ most misunderstood yet essential creatures during Shark Night” at Thunder Bay Theatre in Alpena. As part of the evening, guests can enjoy an evening of shark films, lively discussion, and an informal reception.

Following some films, panels featuring community members and experts will provide the audience with a deeper understanding of varying viewpoints.  On Jan. 30, from 3 p.m.-5 p.m., in connection with a series of films related to our fisheries, representatives from Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, and Besser Museum will connect attendees to the fisheries and their oral histories in our Great Lakes. Additionally, on Jan. 31, from 3 p.m.-5 p.m., educators, community partners, and students from the NE MI GLSI network will panel a series related to marine debris and plastic pollution. They will highlight how local youth are researching, improving, and increasing awareness for plastic pollution in the Great Lakes as part of classroom learning. Through these place-based education inquiries, students apply their learning to better their community and marine environments.

Also on Jan. 31, youth are welcome to attend “Great Kids, Great Films,” a full day of free programming and hands-on activities. This program is best suited for children, ages 10 and under, and takes place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the NOAA Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

The Thunder Bay International Film Festival is a fantastic opportunity to engage the community in Great Lakes and oceans issues. Tickets are $30 for the Friday opening reception and films, $20 for the Saturday evening reception and films, $10 for Shark Night, and $6 for all other programs. A full festival pass (Thunder Pass!) can be purchased at a discount. Call (989) 356-8805, visit thunderbayfriends.org, or come into the Sanctuary Store (500 West Fletcher, Alpena) to buy your tickets. For more information about the Thunder Bay International Film Festival or the Student Film Competition, call (989) 356-8805, ext 38, or email Stephanie Gandulla.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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