Riding the Tides of Ocean Change

We need as a society to imagine a world that’s beautiful enough for us to fight for. What would this world look like if we designed it to be beautiful for us and all species? What if we got this right?
— Rob Stewart in Sea of Life

"I was 16 years old, learning for the first time that the world's coral reefs, rainforests and fisheries are expected to disappear within my lifetime. Every species I love, every ecosystem we depend on was in jeopardy," writes filmmaker Julia Barnes.

"Action became a necessity and the journey to make Sea of Life began. I bought a couple of cameras, learned to dive, and set out on a mission to expose the biggest threats facing the ocean."

Some stats she cites include:

  • 50% of the world's coral reefs are gone
  • 90% of the fish have been taken from the ocean
  • 40% of the plankton that produce the oxygen we breathe have disappeared
We’re bringing on a mass extinction in the oceans. That’s something that will change everything on our planet, far more than climate or food or anything like that.
— Sea of Life

Armed with a sense of urgency and mission, Barnes filmed  her documentary over three years in seven countries, diving into some of the most spectacular ecosystems on the planet. It exposes both the destruction that's happening in the ocean and the efforts underway to stop it.

Sea of Life leads audiences through the beautiful world of coral reefs into the heart of the environmental movement, meeting passionate scientists, activists and explorers, who reveal an opportunity to rise in the face of this challenge, to become the heroes the world needs now.

Big changes do happen all the time. And they don’t happen because governments decide the right things; they happen because people create the change, with their passion and having a voice.
— Sea of Life

The 2017 Water Docs Film Festival will host the Canadian premiere screening of the Sea of Life on Friday, March 31 (6–8:30 pm) at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, in Toronto, as part of our Water's Rising Tides of Change evening.

The evening is also our Awards Night. Barnes will receive the prize as Winner of the Best Film in the Ontario150 Film Challenge for Emerging Ontario Filmmakers, for Sea of Life. Two other award winners will also have their films screened. 

Sydney Boniface's In Season, Runner-up in the Ontario150 Film Challenge, follows surfers along Lake Ontario as they face freezing temperatures during Toronto winters, pursuing the sport with a passion that knows no seasons. 

And Tammy Foster will receive an Honourable Mention for her Conserving Water in Urban Areas, which examines an Urban Green Infrastructure Project at the Lower Thames Conservation Authority office, in Chatham, Ontario, designed to collect, filter and slowly release roof and parking lot runoff water.

Following the film screenings, the filmmakers will appear as guest speakers, in a discussion emceed by TV producer Michael A. Charbon. The evening will also have a special tribute to the late filmmaker, shark lover and friend to the Earth, Rob Stewart. This is especially appropriate given his influence on new generations of filmmakers dedicated to saving our oceans, like Julia Barnes.

As she says, "I never intended to become a filmmaker but when I watched [Rob Stewart's] documentary Revolution everything changed."