Wild Ocean 3D

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Opens: Friday, Oct. 17, Los Angeles (Giant Screen Films)

Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell, the composers-choreographers-directors who created the hit British stage show "Stomp" and shared an Oscar nomination for their short "Broom," have turned another shared passion into a hugely -- as in Imax huge -- entertaining documentary.

Deep-sea diving enthusiasts, the two men now stomp across the screen with "Wild Ocean 3D," a jaw-dropping dive into the annual feeding frenzy of sharks, dolphins and other predators that takes place along the so-called Wild Coast of South Africa. It's pretty wild.

The 3D film, which opens Friday, Oct. 17 in Los Angeles, is rolling out in Imax venues throughout the world. It should become a perennial at all big-screen cinemas.

What happens is that billions of sardines migrate up the KwaZulu-Natal east coast each June and July (winter in South Africa) in search of zooplankton in cold water. Converging on this rugged coastline with no harbors, spectacular waterfalls and plenty of food are dolphins, sharks, fur seals, African penguins and Gannets diving from the sky, hitting the ocean surface at 130 miles per hour.

Coincidentally with this Sardine Run, humpback whales migrate to this spot at exactly the same time. So it's a pigout for a marine biologist -- and a wildlife documentarian!

To protect themselves, the sardines instinctively form "baitballs," a swirling mass of fish that moves in a coordinated unison. These massive movements beneath the sea confuse predators and serve to partially hide the shoals of sardines.

For the filmmakers, the action on the turbulent surface, in the crowded sky above and deep underwater marks a visually stunning acting out of the circle of life as the entire food chain is in motion at single moment. Their musical score brilliantly moves to the exciting rhythms of the ballet of death under the sea, coming at you in waves as much as the fish in 3-D swim at a viewer.

The film's three-year production schedule, built around these brief windows of opportunity off the Wild Coast, tells a distressing tale. The 2005 shoot proved to be a bumper year. The following two years action along the beach was nil because of global warming, though still plentiful out at sea. What's more alarming, such events once took place with regularity in the seas of Europe and the oceans of the Americas. No more. These areas have long since been fished out of sardines.

So, yes, "Wild Ocean" comes with an ecological message.

Production: Giant Screen Films, Yes/No Prods.
Screenwriters/directors/music/editors: Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas.
Producers: Don Kempf, Steve Kempf, David Marks.
Director of photography: Reed Smoot.
Underwater director of photography: D.J. Roller.
No rating, 40 minutes.


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