AAFF 2017 | Amazing Stories: "Following Seas" & more


Following Seas
Amazing Stories | Features in Competition
My dad often bemoans the lack of color in today’s movies. Back in the day, he says, the colors were more vibrant and jumped out at you from the screen. The reds were deeper, the yellows brighter, and the blues like the color of the ocean. If Dad was not in Florida enjoying a well-deserved retirement, I would insist that he come to the screening of Following Seas. Filmed by the Griffith family on their epic around the world adventures in the '60s and '70s, the ocean blue smacks you in the face and you are happy to let it do so.

Bob and Nancy Griffith met while on their respective boats in Honolulu Harbor. A successful veterinarian, Bob retired early to fulfill a lifelong dream of sailing the world. He and Nancy fell in love, married, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime all the while shooting film and still pictures to document their travels.

The Following Seas documentary by Tyler Kelley and Araby Williams highlights the family's voyages with their young child on the Ahwahnee boat.

While the vessel was sturdy and well maintained, the living conditions on land lacked modern amenities. For instance, upon arriving at an island, the family alit from their boat, put up a covering and slept right on the beach. They fished for their food or relied on the supplies they brought with them. While this may seem primitive, Nancy Griffith reported, “You aren’t deprived of anything necessary, so you are comfortable.”

In the midst of these happy sails, the Griffiths had another child and decided to leave America for the wild seas. Whilst enjoying this nomadic lifestyle, the first Awanhee boat was wrecked. Completely undaunted, the family got its entire savings of $8,000, took the engine and sail from the first boat and constructed a new boat that was also called Awahnee. The 53-foot boat had the same design as the original boat and construction took a little under a year. The family set sail again, ultimately completing 20 ocean voyages, circumnavigating the Earth in 1963, 1966, and 1971.

This incredible documentary includes scenes from these adventures as captured by the family’s 16mm camera. One of the most striking was their expedition to Antarctica, in which the Griffiths left their six-month-old baby with grandparents, and set sail with their 14-year-old son and three New Zealanders. From New Zealand, they sailed to the Campbell Island about 350 miles south. They did not have complete charts for that far south and had to figure out the navigation by hand -- without GPS or any other modern convenience of the 21st century.

Again, the photography is absolutely stunning. Dark green icebergs stick out of the deep blue water. Land masses are so white that they hurt your eyes greet the Griffiths and their crew. At some point, National Geographic met them to take photographs.

While sailing between the mainland and the islands, the family and crew visited various stations all maintained by different countries. In each case, they were greeted as celebrities and heroes, Nancy Griffith said. They had dinner and drinks with their hosts and were able to communicate regardless of language because, as Bob Griffith said, “You don’t have to have the same language to talk about boats and weather.”

More adventures awaited the Awahnee crew as they sailed back toward Hawaii, and the overarching sense of absolute freedom and exhilaration never leaves us. Perhaps without meaning to, Nancy summed up the movie perfectly when she recalled the return journey as the “sensation of being on top of the world.” March 25, 5:15 pm | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium (Theater members will be admitted for free; documentarians Tyler Kelley and Araby Williams in attendance.)

More Amazing Stories:

Opening Night Screening | Amazing Stories |Shorts in Competition
How many of us would shoot ourselves out of a cannon for a living? How many of us would abandon our dreams of becoming an actress to work with a traveling circus because we wanted to stay with that human cannonball? Such is the premise for the short film Luis & I. The trailers show a man flying through the air like a majestic eagle—but without the wings and with the hope that he will land in the net. March 21, 8:15pm | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium (filmmakers in attendance)

Socrates of Kamchatka
Political | Amazing Stories | World Premiere
For our full review of this movie, click here. March 22, 7:30 pm | Michigan Theater Screening Room

Furusato 古里
Furusato | Globalization | Amazing Stories | Asian Focus | Features in Competition
The idea is that everyone in Japan is supposed to love their hometowns -- their furusato. Ideally, this concept conjures images of multiple generations living in rural towns in quaint abodes. But what does that mean in Fukushima five years after the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl? This feature-length documentary by Thorsten Trimpop (who will be in attendance) follows four residents of Fukushima: an activist, an engineer, a horse breeder and a teenager. They have lost homes and land, live with the threat of radiation, and spend their lives in a place known as a “nuclear exclusion zone.” What does it mean when your furusato—the first place you see as a child and the last place you should see before you pass on—is the place where the local nuclear power plant melted down? The documentary examines modern living and progress set against the backdrop of a rural village that was irrevocably changed five years ago. March 26, 2:15 pm | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium

Patti Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cat.

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