Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Filmmaker Q&A: Maria Jose Calderon, "The Edge of the Sea"

Maria Jose Calderon's Film Festival debut will be at the 7th annual San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. Her film, "The Edge of the Sea," will be screened during the 7pm program on Saturday, February 6, 2010.

What is your summary for "The Edge of the Sea"?
The Edge of the Sea explores the issue of privatization of public areas and the social and environmental consequences of excessive coastal development that is quickly changing the character of Puerto Rico’s beaches.

The film tells the story of Edwin ‘Pauco’ Font, a 61-year old third generation fisherman from Rincón, a small surfing town on the West coast of Puerto Rico. Since the late 1960’s, small fishing villages like Rincón have undergone expansive costal development, driven by tourism and the growing demand for beachfront property. The film follows Pauco in his battle against a local developer planning to build a mega condo project on one of Rincón’s most popular public beaches.

Throughout the film, we come to understand Pauco’s motivation to fight the development. Since the explosion of tourism, he and other residents of Rincón have seen the white sand beaches of their hometown lose between 1 and 3 meters of volume a year due to erosion. Interviews with Marine Science experts explain that coastal development is one of the primary factors causing beaches in Rincón to disappear. Coastal development is not only worsening the problem of erosion but is also limiting beach access.

In 2001, Pauco sued the Puerto Rican Planning Board for granting the developers fraudulent permits to build the project. After an 8-year battle in court, the fishermen were able to prove that the “Reina del Mar” project would be in public domain lands. The ruling created an unprecedented victory and a source of inspiration for hundreds of communities around the island that are dealing with similar issues, in what seems to be an out of control quest to develop Puerto Rico’s coastline.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?
I was inspired by Pauco´s determination to fight for what he considered a worthy cause. When he realized that excessive coastal development was causing serious environmental problems in his community, and that it was also violating people´s right to enjoy their natural resources, he began a fight that he didn´t abandoned until he win it, and he did.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?
The most challenging part of making"The Edge of The Sea"was to win the trust of developers in Puerto Rico, without their collaboration the film wouldn´t be as powerful. It was really important for me to make a film that would be accurate, balanced and ethical, and for that to happened I needed to have both sides of the issue.

Another challenging aspect of making this film, was to explain in a visual and compelling way very complex events such as coastal erosion and what causes it.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?
I want viewers to be able to see that the same or similar issues as the ones covered in the film are also going on in their own communities and that it´s up to regular citizens to defend beach access for all and to demand stricter development regulations that don´t interfere with sensitive ecosystems.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?
The most enjoyable part of making this particular film was to be able to meet wonderful people like Pauco and astonishgly beautiful places like Rincon.

What is your inspiration?
I´m inspired by nature to make films that educate and inspire others to protect our planet and all beings that live in it. When people are aware of the importance of ecosystems that surround them, there are better chances that those people will care and engage in the protection of their natural environments.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?
At the end of my first year at the UC Berkeley graduate school of journalism, I had the opportunity to do an internship with the Surfrider Foundation in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Part of my job there was to make a half an hour film about the efforts of a community to protect an endangered coastal area. The film is titled, Salva Tres Palmas tells the story of the environmental victory that gave life to the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, the first marine reserve on the main island of Puerto Rico.

While making Salva Tres Palmas, I realized that I from now on I was going to make films about the environment.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival? This is the first time that I submit a film to the festival and I´m very pleased to had been accepted to participate with "The Edge of The Sea." The festival is a great venue and the perfect place to get my film exposed to a community of conscious people that love the ocean and that might find inspiration to get involved in similar fights in their own communities.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?
After making "The Edge of The Sea" I decided to travel across the Américas (From California to Chile) documenting the efforts of community based organizations that are fighting to protect the environment and live in a more sustainable way. My husband and I left California in November of 2010 and right now are in Central America. We hope to be able to share some of our work soon through our website:
The full lineup of more than 50 films included in the 7th Annual San Francisco Ocean Film Festival is available now.
Check it out and purchase your tickets today!
7th Annual San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
When: February 3-7, 2010
Where: Theatre 39The Embarcadero and Beach Street, San Francisco

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