This past Saturday night, a new documentary called “Operation: Blue Pride”, made its West Coast Premiere at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Despite a lack of star power (the film’s cameo by billionaire Sir Richard Branson aside) or a major studio distributing the film, hundreds turned out for film, food, and advocacy.
Guests were greeted with a lobby filled with some of the amazing underwater photography captured since the non-profit Operation: Blue Pride, which teaches diving and shark conservation to returning injured veterans, began. The forty-five minute film then led into a Q & A, which was followed by an open reception, autographs from the film’s heroes, and additional photo ops on the ‘Blue’ Carpet.
The attendees represented a huge swath from the surrounding cities – including active military and veterans, conservation groups, school groups, church groups, government officials and indie film aficionados. Children in the audience, some as young as seven, wanted to know the age of Captain Marlene Krpata’s service dog Gracie. Older kids, like one of the fifty Advanced Placement students from Environmental Charter High School, asked what effect the increasing acidity of the oceans was having on all oceanic life.
Sue Chen, founder of Operation: Blue Pride, who moderated the Q & A, was able to direct the varied questions to the appropriate person. For the more scientific queries there were ample science experts in attendance, including Dr. Gregor Hodgson of Reef Check. Adults and children asked how they could help, and perhaps, most important than all, so many of them thanked the veterans on stage for their service and sacrifice.
Guests were treated to an array of sweet and savory treats from chic Manhattan Beach bakery Cake Bakeshop. Owner, Laura Mandracchia, was happy to bring some of her signature wares to the event, which included salted chocolate cookies and feta sundried tomato scones. Also, contributing to the festivities was Hermosa Beach wine shop UnCorked.
It was an evening full of emotion, gratitude and beauty. While waiting in line to meet the veterans, First Lieutenant Scott Hsu remarked, “Tonight made me really proud to be a soldier.” Hermosa Beach Mayor Michael DiVirgilio echoed a similar sentiment, stating “I was proud to see such an impressive effort to honor and care for struggling veterans.”
The subjects of the film, Captain Marlene Krpata, Sergeant Stephen Jackel Jr., and Sergeant Chris Maddeford, signed autographs for new shark supporters of all ages until the lobby lights dimmed, confident that the ranks of those who will now fight to make shark finning illegal had surged by hundreds and soon, thousands.