Though calm and soft-spoken in his delivery, John Hocevar doesn’t mince words about what Greenpeace has achieved and the daunting challenges still ahead.
“We win a lot of campaigns,” he said from his home in Washington, D.C. where he is the Oceans Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA. “We’re really pretty good accomplishing some meaningful and significant things that I care a lot about. At the same time, it’s not hard to see that our world is crumbling around us.
“We’re winning some big battles, but the wars can feel out of reach sometimes and that’s the biggest challenge: staying positive through the hard points and figuring out how to scale up our victories and our movement to rise to the challenges of our time,” he said. “We get a lot of from what we’ve accomplished together and we’ve achieved some pretty spectacular results at all scales, from a local school or town all the way up to the global perspective through the United Nations.”
Among the latest efforts is preserving the southern oceans of the Antarctic, the focus of Sanctuary, a documentary feature in the field of 170 films for this year’s Sedona International Film Festival, Feb. 22-March 1.
The film follows a team, including Hocevar and Carlos Bardem and his Oscar-winning brother, Javier, studying the astonishing diversity of ecosystems and the role of oceans in reducing carbon dioxide and what’s at stake if we continue to indiscriminately exploit its resources.
And though you may not realize it, The Sedona International Film Festival plays an important role in that effort.
“Being at film festivals like Sedona builds awareness, but a lot of it is nonlinear,” Hocevar explained. “A lot of the impact we have through art in general or film festivals in particular is more complicated and subtle. It plants a seed. It may make someone think differently. It can inspire people and where they go from that point we may never know, but we have to believe that the more people who are exposed to these stories and this message, the better off we’ll be.”
Hocevar has been in this fight for more than two decades. He fell in love with the ocean at five, “the first time my folks brought me to a state park in the Long Island Sound. It was as far as ocean’s vistas go, and maybe not the most impressive, but it made a huge impression on me. I’ve wanted to do this or something like this ever since.”
And he has, building a remarkable resumé of achievements from projects including the Sea Turtle Nesting Project in Florida to playing a leading role in Greenpeace’s global anti-whaling campaign that resulted in Japan dropping plans to hunt humpback whales and end all private investment in the country’s whaling industry. In 2010, he helped lead Greenpeace’s response to the BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But the chaotic state of American politics adds another level of roadblocks to addressing environmental challenges.
“We have to frame the issues in ways that the current administration can connect with,” he said. “And that is the power of film and art. It’s an opportunity to have a different kind of conversation other than one relying on policy briefings and scientific research.”
Those conversations will certainly be taking place during the 26th annual Sedona International Film Festival, which opens Feb. 22 with a sneak preview of the new film, Heartland, at the Sedona Performing Arts Center. Films also will be screened at the Mary D. Fisher Theater and Harkins 6.
Three Oscar-nominated documentary features – For Sama, The Cave and Honeyland, also nominated for Best International Film – are among 45 full-length documentaries selected for screening. Five films – The Apollo (documentary feature), Midnight Family (documentary feature), One Child Nation (documentary feature), Portrait of a Lady (Best International Feature) and Those Who Remained (Best International Feature) – were short-listed for Academy Award consideration.
Among the films with acclaimed actors are Driveways (narrative feature) with Brian Dennehy; Standing Up, Falling Down (narrative feature) with Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz; Coda (narrative feature) starring Patrick Stewart and Katie Holmes; Heartland with Mariel Hemingway, Frances Fisher and David Arquette; and The Truth (narrative feature), the closing-night film starring Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Ethan Hawke.
Saturday, Feb. 29, Emmy-winning and Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated actor, director and producer Rob Reiner will receive the festival’s prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his work in front of and behind the camera and his commitment to the art of independent filmmaking. Reiner, who rose to fame as Mike “Meathead” Stivic on All in the Family, has been at the helm of award-winners including When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, LBJ.
Also on opening day, actress and singer Lainie Kazan will return to the Sedona International Film Festival to introduce the 2019 film Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog, written and directed by Lynn Roth. Shepherd is based on the award-winning and bestselling Israeli novel, “The Jewish Dog,” by Asher Kravitz.
Friday, Feb. 28, there will be a special presentation by Bella Gaia, an award-winning and unprecedented NASA-powered immersive experience inspired by astronauts who spoke of the life-changing power of seeing the Earth from space.
Priority Passes are on sale. The Platinum All Access Priority Pass includes access to all Festival activities, films, events and parties and includes priority seating. The price for Sedona International Film Festival members is $1,193. Nonmembers pay $1,325. Gold Priority Passes, with priority tickets, seating to all films and a pass to one of the evening parties, are $562 for members and $625 for nonmembers.
Ticket Packs, which include tickets for any films plus preview nights two weeks prior to the festival, are $245 (member price) for the 20-ticket packs and $260 for nonmembers and $125 (member price) for 10-ticket packs and $135 for nonmembers.
Individual tickets are $15.
Sedona Film Festival memberships range from $75 for a basic membership to $50,000 for Film Star level, each with appropriate benefits.
For more information, visit www.sedonafilmfestival.com.