Friday Harbor Film Festival wraps up seventh year

As the seventh annual Friday Harbor Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday, Oct. 27, the crowd showed up once more to give tribute to Orcas Islander Joe Gaydos, a wildlife veterinarian and science director for Sea Doc Society. Gaydos was the recipient of this year’s Local Hero Award.

After being introduced by Mayor of Friday Harbor Farhad Ghatan, Gaydos explained there was some confusion in his family as to which award he had received. Was he a superhero, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year? Gaydos joked.

“If I had to choose between Man of the Year, Superman, or a local hero, I would choose being a local hero. Because for me, it’s all about community,” Gaydos said. He added that he views himself similar to a turtle on top of a post because that turtle did not get there by itself, it had a lot of support.

Gaydos has a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He has served on Washington States Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council and is currently serving on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force.

“Our oceans are in trouble,” Gaydos said, noting the number of marine animals, including fish, in decline and added threats from acidification and global warming. “But our community is standing up and taking action.”

Gaydos joins the ranks of past local hero award winners including Ken Balcomb; Bruce Barr; Sam and Barbara Buck; Alex Shapero; and Dylan De H’aeze. Every year, the award is presented to a present or former resident of San Juan Islands who has made outstanding contributions to the community’s quality of life. Recipients are recognized for their positive impact on people, animals, the arts, health or the environment, the festival’s website explained.

Attendees also cheered on their favorite films of the event, in the audience choice awards.

Audience choice winners

Best Tales from the Heart: “RBG,” directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West. This film focuses on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; documenting her career and family life, and weaving together an array of Ginsberg’s speeches and writings with a powerful interview with the judge herself.

Best Explorer and Adventure: “Maiden,” directed by Alex Holmes. This documentary tells the story of Tracy Edwards’ journey from charter boat cook to the captain of the first-ever all-female to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989.

Best “Things to Consider”: “The Zen Speaker: Breaking the Silence,” directed by Robin Greenspun. This documentary shines a light on the dark world of sex trafficking and delves into the emotional and physical devastation survivors of sex trafficking are left with.

Best Short Film: “This Being Human,” directed by Aimie Vallant. The documentary follows young Iraqi immigrant Hameed as he tells the story of how he left his war-torn country at age 15 for his own survival and to pursue a more peaceful future with an education.

Audience Favorite: “The IF Project,” directed by Kathryn Horan. “The IF Project” shows the impact of an innovative program aimed at assisting incarcerated women to confront the circumstances that led to their imprisonment and help them down the journey of turning their lives around.

The Laszlo Pal Emerging Filmmaker Award: Katie Supplee for “The Last Crop.” This documentary illustrates the effects of the recession on a farming community and what the disappearance of small farms means for the country.

Student filmmaker winner in age category 13-17 was Friday Harbor High School senior Blake Budwill for “Fading Sound.” In this documentary, Budwill turns the spotlight to the endangered Southern resident orcas, investigating the the threats to the species.

For ages 18-26, Connor Von Kuetzing won with “Kill Your Darlings.” In this 22-minute film, friends and crew must talk a film director out of killing a heartless executive after he announces her movie will be recut.

“These films don’t just show us the issues, they show us a way out,” Ghatan said before playing a few of the winning documentaries.