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Film Festival Highlights Plight of the Oceans

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Filmmaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence James Cameron emerges from the Deepsea Challenger submersible after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, on March 26, 2012. (Image credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.)

MONTEREY, Calif. — James Cameron, Richard Branson and the His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco were just a few of the stars who came here in support of the world's oceans at last week's biennial Blue Ocean Film Festival, which showed more than 100 films over the course of the week that aimed to bring awareness to the various problems facing the world's seas.

The festival ended Friday, with the top award going to "The Island President" (http://theislandpresident.com/) a documentary about President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. With an average height of 5 feet (1.5 meters) above sea level, the Maldives are vulnerable to rising seas and Nasheed is worried about the possibility that his island nation may not exist in the future. The film captures Nasheed's first year in office in 2009 as he tries to convince other countries to act on international climate change agreements. In February 2012, Nasheed resigned the presidency under the threat of violence in a coup d'etat perpetrated by security forces loyal to a former dictator of the Maldives.

Other films also went home with prizes as well. "Sea Rex 3D," which visits ocean-dwelling dinosaurs in prehistoric time, won the 3D category, and "Planet Ocean," which used aerial and underwater photography to take audiences on a journey into the heart of the least known regions of our planet, won for cinematography.

The summit was also a chance for conservationists and filmmakers to interact with scientists. "This is the perfect storm of bringing together the experts —the doers and dreamers — together with the storytellers," said U.S. Rep. Sam Farr of California. "We have been taking everything from nature and using our knowledge to transform it into things and we throw the waste into the air or the ocean." [Video: Humans Hit the Oceans Hard]

During a panel about the power of celebrities in spurring conservation action, actor and director Edward James Olmos spoke about a public service announcement he did to ask people to think about, and thank, the oceans.

"It was so basic; it was so profound, it worked so well. It made everybody that heard it able to do something," he said. Other celebrities in attendance at the panelincluded actress and model Amber Valletta, who is working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Celine Cousteau, daughter of Jacques Cousteau, who is working to promote the use of glass instead of plastic, which often ends up clogging ocean environments.

The film festival also brought out submarine vehicles, including Richard Branson's Virgin Oceanic and DeepFlight Challenger, OceanGate's Antipodes, Hawkes Ocean Technologies' Super Falcon, Undersea Voyager Project's Great White, and Discovery's Dual Deep Worker. The vehicles were placed around the Portola Hotel in Monterey, looking like an undersea expedition was about to get under way.

A Legacy Awards dinner was also part of the festival. This year, it honored filmmaker James Cameron, who dove to the bottom of the Mariana Trench earlier this year, with a lifetime achievement award in ocean filmmaking, as well as Captain Don Walsh, the first man to explore the Mariana Trench, who was honored for a lifetime of ocean exploration.

This story was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to LiveScience.

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