8th international underwater film and photo festival Walking beneath the Sea, was held last weekend in January, as usual. All those who know the story know that the festival has started its journey 13 years ago as part of the symposium Diving for people with disabilities. The reason that I mention this in the introduction, is that the main purpose of diving for disabled people, people with disabilities, wheelchair users, less able or differently named persons, who are physically or otherwise hindered, and when walking and moving by land use any kind of devices, but under the water they can easily compete with those, who are the so-called the healthy ones. This distinction was maintained in the dictionary again between 28 and 30 January 2016.
Walking Beneath the Sea, in its eighth edition finally got its appearance, and content have found it´s place during three days of the festival, which is intended for all people, not just for those who are more or less tied to the underwater world.
Thursday´s opening ceremony took place in Zrece, with projections for pupils, while closed screenings took place in primary schools in Slovenska Bistrica, Laporje, Tinje, Smartno on Pohorje, Pragersko and of course in the Slovenske Konjice, where the festival has found its new home. Number of spectators on Thursday and Friday exceeded the number thousand in the morning, but the point is not the number, but the diversity of the visitors. The crowd consisted of a group of pupils, children with special needs, people with disabilities and the elderly, who for the first time had the opportunity to meet some of the authors. At the initial projection at the opening, we could get to know an American with Slovenian roots Becky Kagan Schott, a winner of multiple Emmy Awards (TV Oskar) and one of the most promising underwater photographers. Students of Primary school Pohorski odred Slovenska Bistrica were joined by two outstanding researchers of deep wrecks, Englishman Leigh Bishop and Finn Kari Hyttinen. The meeting additionally flared up the of children´s imagination.
Friday evening, with the opening of a photo exhibition, and the final selection of children´s art works has moved into the large hall of the Cultural Centre Slovenske Konjice. There we could see the introduction movie that showed the birth of the amazing installations of exceptional photographer Andreas Franke, who has presented us an unusual story about how the sea is helping to create works of art. The story continued with excellent performance of accordionist Janez Dovc and his guests (Goran Krmac, Nino Mureskic), among which was a unique surprise, a 7 year old Vito Bejat Krajnc, who impressed the audience with the sovereign performance.
Saturday, that was many years ago, reserved only for the Symposium Diving AST (apnea, SCUBA diving and technical diving), has emerged again in a new form. It started with a set of open screenings of films that could not be seen in the Grand Prix night and continued with lectures on free diving, recreational and technical diving, which we named Diving AST Talks. Exceptional stories are told by the invited guests of the festival, which professional topics are presented in a simplified manner.
The first lecturer, Kari Hyttinen presented a 3D Photogrammetry, and showed that everything that lies submerged, can be brought to the surface and with the help of computer programs photos are treated so as to obtain a 3D image in a coordinate system that if necessary, can be rotated in all possible ways, and photographed area can easily be presented as a whole. He also spoke about the wrecks of the Baltic Sea. Within this theme he also pointed out that three disabled divers from Slovenia, which last year dived in the Baltic Sea in Finland, saw one of the sunken wrecks too.
Leigh Bishop, the first planetary citizen who has photographed at depths of over a hundred meters, a participant of the expedition to Titanic NOAA (the team with James Cameron) and a member of the expedition to the Britannic (sister ship of the Titanic), on the shores of West Africa weaved a story of the vanished ship. The researchers explored Dutch merchant ship full of treasures. An international team explored the area during the Ebola outbreak, which posed an additional challenge for the researchers.
The third of the big four, Herbert Nitsch, the owner of 33 world records in free diving, was the common thread, mentioned in the introduction. Herbert Nitsch after a free dive to 253 meters, which is the maximum depth reached by the man in free diving in the category of no limits, almost crossed the line, but landed in a wheelchair. With a lot of luck, a lot of discipline and denial He was on his feet again and walking. He told us the story of his return from the abyss and why he was sucked to the abyss by a whirl of testing his own skills and pushing the limits in this area. The story of Austrian Herbert Nitsch is the story of all of us, but each of us is experiencing the story in a slightly different way.
Exceptional set of lectures ended a young American Becky Kagan Schott, who has impressed the audience with a statement, that she loves diving, but is not ready to die for it. With great footage of diving under the ice in caves and with sea lions she ended the first Diving AST Talks, which we hope that in the future will bring more similar exceptional stories from the world of diving.
The Final evening, which from Grand Prix literally converts more into a Great festivity, began at six in the afternoon. In a crowded hall in two stages we could experience a dramatic film journeys under the sea, which are beginning their way down the world´s festivals.
The audience was entertained by ideal moderators of national radio and television, Luka Bregar, Katarina Golob and Bostjan Veselic, which, as the organizers, believe that without major sponsors for the good and simple people, it is still worthwhile and possible to organize a »festivity .
Festival by the socialist standards could complete a primary school and went on holiday and in autumn would be enrolled in high school- a new environment, new classmates and new steps on the path to adulthood. We all know that in socialism and turbo capitalism after a primary school we must decide about our future. This also applies to the festival of underwater film and photography Walking beneath the sea, who grew up in a wonderful pupil, but is not yet fully grown. It may happen that the gifted child will travel abroad, and the whole story is only a pleasant memory, the idea that many do not want to own.
The end leaves us with satisfaction of the successful implementation of this year´s festival, and many thanks to all the good people, patrons, without whom the festival would have been shorter and less interesting.
Photo: Jan Godec, Peter Planinsek, Izidor Kotnik
RTV SLO, SPORT PROGRAM, 9. 2. 2016
Authors: Simon Sparavec in Drago Sorsak
RTV SLO, TV Maribor, TELE M, 15. 2. 2016
Author: Drago Sorsak
Production & design: Creativ, Novi mediji d.o.o.