Mountainfilm 2019: “Diving Deep,“ A Film With A Message by Mimi deGruy

Mountainfilm 2019: “Diving Deep,“ A Film With A Message by Mimi deGruy

The line-up for the 41st annual gathering of the tribe features guest director Cheryl Strayed, plus Sir Chris Bonington, Hilaree Nelson, Erin Parisi and Ben Rhodes.

Passes/tickets to the 41st annual Mountainfilm are on selling out.

And the full schedule is here.

Please scroll down to listen to a podcast with director, producer and writer Mimi deGruy of “Diving Deep.”

Mimi deGruy presents her “Diving Deep” at Mountainfilm.

Mimi deGruy’s “Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy” is a visually engrossing and deeply moving personal tribute to her husband’s life and work, also an environmental manifesto.

However the doc is not the first time Mountainfilm has gotten itself into deep water.

In 2014, Mountainfilm plunged headfirst into the challenge, making the global water crisis the subject of a Moving Mountains Symposium which addressed the relationship between water and health, water and climate change, privatization versus globalization, conflict and resolution.

A returning Mountainfilm guest that year was “Her Deepness,” Dr. Sylvia Earle, perhaps the world’s best known oceanographer, who chided: “Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea. We have a moral obligation not to destroy that which we cannot put together again. Just try making a fish or a tree.”

Fact is the world’s oceans and seas contain 97 percent of the water on our planet, create seasonal rains, replenish our rivers, lakes, and streams, make our crops grow and cool us on hot summer days. Oceans play a major role in the production of oxygen, accounting for about 70 percent of the air we breathe. Ocean water also absorbs carbon dioxide and other toxic gases hostile to life, yet today, more than 40 percent of those waters are severely impacted by human activities, including over-fishing and pollution. A shift in the ocean’s chemistry caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide from events like the burning of fossil fuel and forests is disrupting shell-forming plankton and reef-building species big time.

And that’s just the tip of the (melting) iceberg.

Mimi & Mike deGruy in their native habitat, happy together.

Mike deGruy had fallen head over heels with the ocean and its critters as a boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama at the confluence of five rivers that flowed through rich swamps filled with alligators, birds, fish, deer and snakes. That wonderland of the delta emptied into Mobile Bay and finally into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, saturating deGruy’s mind and body.

Ultimately Mike deGruy turned his passion for the aquatic life of the bayou into his life’s work.

The Emmy Award-winning marine biologist and submersible pilot traveled the world for over three decades shooting glorious, intimate films of the sea and its creatures for a variety of clients including the BBC, PBS and National Geographic.

DeGruy filmed killer whales snatching sea lion pups off the beaches of Patagonia; lobsters migrating in the Bahamas; tiger sharks feeding on albatross in Hawaii; hydrothermal vents deep in the Atlantic and the Pacific; and the diversity of cephalopods like squid, cuttlefish and octopi. He interviewed the likes of Sir David Attenborough, the aforementioned Earle and award-winning director James Cameron, who became a friend and collaborator.

Though it scarred him for life, it was not the vicious shark attack early in his career that changed deGruy’s focus from all fun and games.

Mean as it was, that scar was only skin deep.

Mike deGruy, still from “Diving Deep.”

It was the worst oil spill in U.S. history, leaving a scar that was soul deep, haunting and depressing him at first, but then moving the man to advocacy and action as an impassioned eco warrior.

It all began when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010. Of the 126 workers at the site that day, 11 were killed by the blast. Over the next three months, oil leakage in the Gulf of Mexico released 134 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling 1,300 miles of shoreline along five states. Scientists concluded thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles were killed and their habitats contaminated.

Following that calamity, Mike deGruy became a man on a mission determined to effect positive change over our treatment of the oceans and seas. He documented threats to the world’s coral reefs; the devastating impact of El Niño on California’s marine mammals; and the dwindling of shark populations in the Great Barrier Reef, among many other projects on which he worked both behind the camera and also as a host.

And so six years after her husband’s tragic death in 2012 – ironically in a helicopter accident rather than an underwater expedition as he was embarking on an undersea film project with Cameron – his wife Mimi, at one time an associate producer for Ted Turner, rolled up her sleeves to tell his story and keep her husband’s passion for positive change in our oceans alive.

As the film’s website tells it:

“…When she was finally able to watch footage after Mike died, Mimi deGruy found a piece she’d never seen, shot not long after the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. She watched it again and again and knew she had to make a film. The footage depicted a different Mike because at that moment, he’d gone from an artist sharing the wonder of the deep to an enraged and impassioned warrior…

“‘Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy,’ tells that story and while it celebrates Mike and all he accomplished in his amazing career, it also highlights what he cared most about at the time of his death: we are destroying the ocean before we even know what’s there… Mike deGruy was in deep conversation with the ocean his entire life and as a result, was a consummate storyteller of the sea. But he had a lot more to say and ‘Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy,’ makes the compelling case that it is now up to us to carry on what Mike deGruy himself couldn’t finish…”

So if ”Diving Deep” is a gorgeous elegy for a magical, mysterious (and unpolluted) underwater kingdom, it is also a call-to-action.

Bottom line: The ocean is the place where the history of life is found, not in fossils, but in living creatures that represent life as it has been. Yet we treat the ocean as our ultimate sewer and refrigerator. Our survival as a species is at risk.

“…if Mike deGruy were alive today he would be spending all his energy to fight on behalf of the ocean, for continued exploration, particularly of the deep sea, research, understanding and ultimately encouraging a reciprocal relationship with it before it is too late.”

Still from “Diving Deep,” a celebration of the life and work of Mike deGruy.


Mike deGruy in action, a still from “Diving Deep.”

“Diving Deep” is a fiscally sponsored project of The Redford Center, a non-profit arts organization.

More about Mimi deGruy, director, producer, writer:

Mimi Armstrong deGruy is a Santa Barbara-based documentary filmmaker. With her late husband, Mike deGruy, she produced numerous hours of award winning television for National Geographic Television, The British Broadcasting Corporation, and other broadcasters.

Prior to working with Mike deGruy, Mimi worked for CNN, Turner Broadcasting’s series “Portrait of America” and the PBS Series “The Infinite Voyage.”

Armstrong deGruy holds a B.A. from Yale University and is the mother of two adult children who remind her a lot of Mike. Like Mike, Mimi believes wholeheartedly in community and its ability to affect change. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of and volunteer for non profits that support environmental change and children’s education.

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