We reached out to our festival filmmakers to ask them five questions about the experience of making their films.
What inspired this story?
Editor-in-Chief of bioGraphic and co-Executive Producer of the film Steven Bedard: We had an opportunity to join a deep-sea research expedition to an unexplored portion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge, following scientists as they probed the seafloor in search of signs of life thousands of feet beneath the surface. Their objective: to learn how life on Earth first began—and how it might evolve elsewhere in the Universe. As you might imagine, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Were there any surprising or meaningful experiences you want to share?
SB: In the deep ocean, nearly everything is a surprise. So little is known about this part of our planet that scientists make new discoveries on practically every dive—previously unknown species, unexpected geologic formations, signs of life buried deep within solid rock. Many of these discoveries take place long after an expedition has been completed. Ask a deep-sea biogeochemist what she/he discovered on a recent trip, and they’ll almost surely tell you to check back in several months.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
SB: We hope that viewers will gain a greater appreciation for how little we currently know about our oceans—especially their deepest expanses—and how much these environments might teach us about the origins of life on Earth.
Describe some of the challenges faced while making this film.
SB: The extreme and isolated conditions in this environment—some of the same factors that brought the scientists to this location in the first place—posed many the greatest challenges to the researchers and our film crew. A spot in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, alongside a tiny, treeless archipelago more than a thousand kilometers off the coast of Brazil was the expedition’s home for more than two weeks. This would be a challenging location to mount a deep-sea expedition under the best of conditions, and these were not the best of conditions. Powerful currents and massive swells kept the research team’s submersibles onboard the ship for endless days. Finally, when the seas calmed the research team and ours scrambled to gather as much data and footage as possible. No one had ever seen this undersea terrain before, and there was no telling how long it might be before anyone would be back here again.
What drove you as a filmmaker to focus on our oceans and marine life?
SB: All clichés aside, it’s impossible to underestimate the significance of our oceans and the organisms that live there. Although we live on the terrestrial one-third of our planet, all of us depend on oceans—for food, for climate regulation, for the weather patterns they generate, and for the carbon dioxide they absorb. Yet, for all their value, we still know surprisingly little about many of these environments—how they function, what life forms they harbor, the threats they face, and the best ways to protect them for generations to come. We hope that films like these will help to illuminate these incredible places and the inspiring people working to understand and protect them.