Stephen Amis’ ‘Defend, Conserve, Protect’ wins US festival prize

‘Defend, Conserve, Protect.’

Stephen Amis’ film examining the long-running campaign to stop Japanese fishermen killing whales in the Southern Ocean was named best international feature documentary at the American Documentary Film Festival.

Four years in the making, Defend, Conserve, Protect had its its world premiere at the festival which ran from March 29 – April 4 in Palm Springs, California.

Produced by Amis, Sea Shepherd Australia MD Jeff Hansen and Sea Shepherd colleague Omar Todd, the doc follows a young, passionate and fearless group of Sea Shepherd activists in their battle to defend the Minke whales as well as exploring the global marine activism movement and the importance of the world’s oceans.

“It’s wonderful for the movie to be recognised abroad and of course we are very happy to promote the incredible work of Sea Shepherd and their ocean conservation programs,” Amis, who attended the premiere, tells IF.

“The usually non-alarmist United Nations released a fairly dire oceanographic and climate change report about ocean acidification and O2 and plankton depletion across the globe a few months ago. So hopefully this film might have a small impact on the broader political discussions around that.”

Narrated by Dan Aykroyd, Defend, Conserve, Protect will have its Australian premiere at the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival in Launceston and Hobart in May. Executive producer Tait Brady and Amis, whose Label Distribution will release the film theatrically in Australia mid-year, are in talks with international sales agents.

Meanwhile Amis is developing several narrative features and feature docs to produce and direct. The slate includes sci-fi film Skydoor scripted by Ian David (Blue Murder), based on a true 1966 event where 200 school children watched three UFOs land at a Melbourne high school, only to see the wheels of the military machine arrive an hour later to shut down the entire suburb.

Screen Australia has funded development and Amis will co-produce with Brady. Amis is also planning feature doc O2, co-produced by Nic Butler, about oxygen depletion across the globe caused by climate change.

At the AmDocs festival Kifaru, David Hambridge’s account of efforts to protect the only surviving northern white rhinos in the wild through the eyes of a dedicated team of Sudanese conservationists, was named best US feature doc.

The international jury award went to Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg’s Line, which looks at a 17-year-old girl who has Down syndrome as she fulfills her dream of making a short film, In the Name of Love, using exclusively her Down syndrome friends.

The full list of prize winners:

Best US feature documentary – Kifaru, directed by David Hambridge

Best US short documentary – Noble Sissle’s Syncopated Ragtime, directed by Daniel L. Bernardi and David de Rozas

Best international feature documentary – Defend, Conserve, Protect, directed by Stephen Amis

Best international short documentary – Cricket Liu, directed by Julia Cheng

International jury award – Line, directed by Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg

Judge’s animation award – Girl in the Hallway, directed by Valerie Barnhart

Audience short documentary – Space to Explore, directed by Katherine DuBois

Sadie Katz Hustle award – M.Douglas Silverstein, director of The Weight of Success