Ecology doc ‘Sea of Hope’ explores national marine monuments

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A report by Gary Goldstein for the Los Angeles Times.

One of President Obama’s perhaps lesser-known achievements — the recent expansion of a national marine monument in his native Hawaii — receives a well-deserved spotlight in the lovely and vital, if decidedly brief, conservation documentary “Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures.”

Director Robert Nixon’s visually stunning portrait tracks the ambitious journey of veteran oceanographer Sylvia Earle, underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry, environmental rights advocate — and the film’s narrator — Max Kennedy (son of Robert F. Kennedy), plus several aspiring teen ecologists across a series of ocean habitats in U.S. territorial waters.

The mission: to study and photograph these critical underwater ecosystems, located in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and around Hawaii. The hope: to inspire the formation of “blue parks” to help protect these and other ocean areas endangered by climate change and overfishing.

The yearlong trip ends with an inspiring meet-up with Obama in conjunction with his creation of the world’s largest marine protected region, one covering more than half a million square miles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The film captures the dazzling beauty of its ocean locales, both above and beneath the surface, while soberly reminding us of the crucial ecological issues — and solutions — at hand. As one observer aptly notes, “Unless we keep the ocean from dying, none of us will make it.”

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‘Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures’

Not rated.

Running time: 48 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Sunday on National Geographic Channel

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