It started with blue whales. Craig Leeson, a Tasmanian journalist and documentary filmmaker, joined world champion free diver Tanya Streeter to find and film the elusive animals in their natural ocean home.
As he was filming a whale underwater, Leeson panned his camera to the right, into a floating whorl of oil and plastic rubbish, and “A Plastic Ocean,” this year’s Salisbury Film Forum selection, was born.
Joined by producer Jo Ruxton, Leeson began a three-year journey to explore the devastation produced by the 8 million tons of plastic we dump in our oceans every year. As they explored the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 1,500 miles from San Francisco in the North Pacific, they found free-floating micro-plastics instead of the solid “island” they had expected. There was more plastic than plankton in the water, and fish were eating it.
But whales and fish are not the only creatures at risk. Leeson’s narrative, a seductive mix of passionate activism and populist science, tells us every level of the food chain is at risk, even humans. He zips around the globe with his camera to show the harmful, even tragic effects of plastic everywhere. Facts are mixed with emotional stories that make the film informative and heart-tugging.
Dozens of conservationists are interviewed. Their expertise and enthusiasm keep the film from feeling too much like a vanity project or, worse, a science lesson. Leeson’s measured use of cinematic infographics inform but do not bore. And unlike many documentaries on global warming and pollution, “A Plastic Ocean” ends hopefully.
Salisbury Forum, in conjunction with The Millerton Moviehouse Film Forum series, will show “A Plastic Ocean” at The Moviehouse on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 11:30 a.m. After the screening, Mark J. Spaulding, president of The Ocean Foundation since its founding 13 years ago, and Angel Braestrup, a member of the Ocean Foundation board and program director of the Munson Foundation for marine conservation, will discuss the film and answer questions.
Like all Forum presentations, “A Plastic Ocean” is offered free to the community. But seating is limited to one Moviehouse theater, so arrive early. Past screenings have played to standing room audiences.