In the days before fellow producer Sean Bogle and I left to come down to San Felipe, many people warned us not to come. El Golfo de Santa Clara, one of the two small communities that is impacted by vaquita conservation efforts and fishing closures, erupted into chaos just days before our scheduled departure. Frustrated fisherman set fire to government vehicles and marched in the streets in protest of restrictions placed on the corvina fishery, which they rely on the make a living.
While we certainly take these concerns seriously, if we heeded every warning that was thrown at us we never would have come down to the upper Gulf of California in the first place. So Sean and I began the 16-hour drive from Boise, Idaho to San Felipe, Mexico with the intention of holding a series of community screenings of our new half hour film. We’d been planning these community screenings for the past several months, working closing with Samantha Young from San Diego Zoo Global as well as a group of local ambassadors here in San Felipe.
Our first stop upon arriving in town however was with the Valverdes. This family of fisherman and biologists is featured prominently in Souls of the Vermilion Sea, and we needed to make sure that they were comfortable with our portrayal of them in the new documentary. We had an intimate screening for the family in the living room of their house, and it was extremely rewarding to see how pleased everyone was with the end product. In the film our central character Javier makes several strong statements about government corruption and it’s role in the illegal totoaba fishery – we were a bit concerned that having these statements in the film would make him uncomfortable, but he stood by what he said, explaining that someone had to stand up for the truth.
Our first screening was at Casa de la Cultura in San Felipe, and we were happy to have a diverse group of local residents in the audience. After the screening we handed out surveys, then opened up the room for discussion and feedback. It was wonderful to hear some very positive reviews and thoughtful commentary on the film. We also received some constructive criticism and ideas for improvement that we found extremely helpful.
Overall it was wonderful to be able to engage with the local community that we are striving to portray in a balanced way in our film, and we are extremely appreciative of our partners from San Diego Zoo Global who helped pull this off. Today the screenings continue – we’ll be screening the film in a local middle school, as well as for a large group of high school students. We feel strongly that students are one of the most important groups to reach here in San Felipe, and we look forward to seeing how they respond to the film!
Tags: community screenings, san felipe, Souls of the Vermilion Sea, Vaquita, vaquita documentary