Marine marvels on film

BASKING BEAUTY: The island's basking sharks have been captured by German filmmaker Florian Guthknecht. Photo by  Eleanor Stone

BASKING BEAUTY: The island's basking sharks have been captured by German filmmaker Florian Guthknecht. Photo by Eleanor Stone

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THE British premier public showings of a wildlife film about the island, made by award-winning German film-maker Florian Guthknecht, will be held at the Erin Arts Centre on February 22 and at Ramsey Grammar School on February 28.

As the film Basking sharks: Gentle Giants is not allowed to be screened in any English speaking country (except for on these occasions and for educational purposes) these are unique opportunities to see it, explained Graham Hall of Manx Basking Shark Watch (MBSW).

‘We have special permission to use it for public education,’ he said. ‘It’s such a shame it cannot be shown in England. It can only be shown in non-English speaking countries and it cannot be duplicated.’

The film was made when Mr Guthknecht – inspired by the work of the MBSW – visited the island in the summer of 2009. His team shot the footage both from the MBSW research boat and underwater. They also conducted interviews and recorded land-based material.

The finished film therefore contains not only basking shark footage and research but also covers some of the island’s other coastal wildlife, particularly the work of Manx Birdlife, as well as Risso’s dolphins, seals and stunning underwater scenery.

‘They initially came for two days but ended up staying for three weeks,’ said Graham. ‘Four of them stayed here and they just worked really hard the whole time. There were very few sharks at that time. We drove hundreds of miles trying to spot them but these things aren’t like dolphins, they stay underwater. However, they sent a cameraman back a few weeks later to get more footage of basking sharks.’

The film, produced by German company Bayerischer Rundfunk, charts the work of the MBSW and captures, in particular, the difficulty of securing tags onto sharks, necessary to monitor their movement across the world’s oceans. It also explores the flora and fauna of the island and focuses on Chris Sharpe, who compiled the Manx Bird Atlas. And it features some amazing underwater scenes and also sweeping views of hills, the coast and mountain to show an island that clearly impressed the German visitors.

‘It’s absolutely stunning,’ said Graham. ‘You get to see the Isle of Man from lovely perspectives. This is a good opportunity for the people of the island to look at it as it will not be shown on TV or anything like that.’

In a BBC interview, Florian said they ‘were left with some wonderful memories of the Isle of Man’. One man gave them his van for their visit, allowing them to stay within budget. He said: ‘That type of thing wouldn’t happen anywhere else.’

Eleanor Stone of the Manx Wildlife Trust added: ‘The film has been shown all over mainland Europe and hence watched by millions, but it is only recently that we have got permission to make an English recording of it.

With support from the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, we now have an English soundtrack spoken by Ariane Barua. As well as planning on sending a copy of the film to every school on the island, and having a premiere viewing of it at the Villa Marina for invited guests and supporters, the Manx Wildlife Trust is organising two public screenings of the film.’

The public screenings are at 7pm next Friday (February 22) at the Erin Arts Centre in Port Erin and at 7.30pm on Thursday, February 28, at Ramsey Grammar School, West building. The screenings are free but a suggested donation of £3 per person towards the work of the Manx Basking Shark Watch would be appreciated.

There are no advance ticket sales so it is first come first served on the night.

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