SBIFF: Cousteau Family Honored with Attenborough Award

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The Arlington exterior on the night of the award (Photo by Max Rouhas)

The Arlington exterior on the night of the award (Photo by Max Rouhas)

Renowned filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau and his two children, Fabien and Celine, received the Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking on Wednesday Jan. 28 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The Cousteaus are known worldwide for educating the public on the importance of protecting the ocean.

The Cousteau family has been exploring and documenting the oceans since Jean-Michel’s father, Jacques Cousteau, became fascinated with the sea. Jacques helped create the first “Aqua-Lung,” now known by the acronym SCUBA, which allowed divers to freely explore the depths of the ocean for a long duration. Combined with the underwater camera, Jacques used this to become famous for his deep sea documentaries that opened audiences’ eyes to the mysteries of the sea.

Jean-Michel is the president of the Ocean Futures Society, which aims to “explore our global ocean, inspiring and educating people” about the need to keep the oceans safe and clean. Jean-Michel believes that children will determine the future of our oceans and wants to educate them on marine life.

“We need to continue sharing all the excitement of nature with young people,” said Jean-Michel.

The presentation of the award was prefaced by the world premiere of Jean Michel’s IMAX film “Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D,” which covered the importance of plankton and other often-overlooked organisms to the ocean ecosystem.

The film was shot with new underwater 3D and Ultra-HD 4K technology near the Fiji Islands, the Bahamas and Biminis.

Following a short break, Jean-Michel, Celine, and Fabien each discussed their recent work with actor Tim Matheson.

Fabien had recently completed a project called “Mission 31.” In honor of his grandfather’s “Cousteau Conshelf Two” expedition, Fabien lived under the ocean in Aquarius, an underwater habitat and lab, for 31 days, breaking the record previously held by his grandfather by a full day. During the 31 days under the sea, Fabien and his crew gathered what would have been 3 years’ worth of research.

Celine has been heavily involved in her production company CauseCentric Productions, mainly her upcoming film “Tribes on the Edge,” about the struggling tribes in the Amazon rainforest and the effort to provide them with aid.

They went on to discuss why protecting the ocean is such an important endeavor. “Everything is interconnected, and by saving the ocean we save ourselves,” Jean-Michel said.

Mimi deGruy, wife of the late Mike deGruy, the creator of the Attenborough Award, presented the three Cousteaus with their awards. The presentation was followed by a video of David Attenborough congratulating the Cousteaus on their work.

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