CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Coastal Bend residents gathered to celebrate films that showcase the Gulf of Mexico’s unique environment, people and places on Oct. 14 during the first Harte of the Gulf Film Competition screening.
The screening, held in the Lonestar Ballroom of the University Center at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, attracted more than 120 festival goers who watched 13 new short films from across the Gulf of Mexico region.
“This event is a great way to help people get to know what we do at the Harte Research Institute and explain scientific information in a way that’s fun and easy to understand,” said Harte of the Gulf Film Competition organizer Michelle Culver, a graduate student at the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “Our goal was to engage the Gulf of Mexico community, and I think we did that.”
The film, “2045: The Gulf Restored” by the Ocean Conservancy took the competition’s first place prize. A hopeful story about a fictional sea turtle born on a beach in Alabama during the 2010 oil spill, the film follows the turtle returning to a restored beach to lay its eggs in 2045, after oil spill fines were used to heal the environment. The film was directed by Brian Jenkins and produced by Kurt Coste.
The film “Legacy” by Jace Tunnell won second place. The storyline followed renowned Port Aransas conservationist Tony Amos as he conducted one of his beach surveys on San Jose Island, an exhaustive data gathering effort he conducted for nearly 40 years until his death of pancreatic cancer in August.
“I got hours of video and thought of it as a wild day,” Tunnell said. “But that’s just what he did every day.”
The third place winner was “Galveston Beach Nourishment,” directed by Brianne Banasik, Emily Drastata, Virginia Greb and Sarah Taylor and produced by Dr. Bill Merrell. The film depicted Galveston’s efforts to restore the beaches that attract visitors and protect its sea wall.
All of the winners received a cash prize, and Tunnell, who attended the festival to accept his award, donated his winnings to the fund to rebuild the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), the animal sanctuary Tony Amos spent his life building. The ARK was badly damaged during Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm in August near Port Aransas.
“I think the films are really inspiring, and I hope they inspire other people,” Tunnell said. “Folks outside the science community aren’t necessarily going to pick up a technical report and read it, so this is a great way to pass on our message of conservation and promote stewardship of our environment.”
Attendees browsed interactive booths and activities presented by the Texas State Aquarium, the Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division, the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, Texas Children in Nature, the American Fisheries Society and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.
The Harte of the Gulf Film Competition began as an effort by graduate students at HRI to pass on knowledge about ocean and coastal issues in a fun, inspiring way. Sponsored by a grant from the institute, the film competition was organized by graduate students Culver and Claire Rydman, master’s students in HRI’s Coastal and Marine Geospatial Sciences Lab and Diana Del Angel, a doctoral student in HRI’s Socio-Economics Group.