Documentary chronicles sponge divers
It airs on WEDU-Ch. 3 today. Tarpon Springs officials hope the film draws more tourists to the Sponge Docks.
By NORA KOCH
Published July 1, 2005
TARPON SPRINGS - A documentary chronicling life as a modern-day sponge diver is scheduled to make its local television debut today.
In 55 minutes, the film tells the story of the city's 100-year-old trade from the boat of Tasso Karistinos, a native of Greece who has harvested sponges from the Gulf of Mexico's seabed since 1973.
"A lot of people think sponging is some kind of picnic," said Karistinos, 52, but the film tells the true story. "I want them to know exactly what we do, what we go through."
And city officials hope the romance of that hard life helps draw more tourists to the Sponge Docks.
"The photography is just stunning," said city research and information specialist Judy Staley.
The documentary will air on the local PBS station four times over the next week, said Paul Grove, WEDU vice president of national programming and production. It was a perfect fit for prime-time programming in Tampa Bay, he said.
The film looks deeply at Karistinos, the main character, Grove said, and his struggles. It also is a good examination of Tarpon Springs, he said.
"When it comes to the cultural aspect of it all, viewers will enjoy it," Grove said. "They're going to really get a nice window to how these people live and the community that they live in."
Producing the film took nearly two years and $200,000, including $150,000 from the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The city came up with the balance with donations from Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital and Waste Management Inc., and a bequest from the estate of the late Tarpon Springs resident Edith Uhl.
Filmmaker Tom Lowe and his crew from Eagle Productions spent weeks aboard the Anastasi, filming the life of the local spongers.
They also spent time taping some of the city's signature cultural events, including the Epiphany celebration and Greek Orthodox Easter.
Once the film was done, Lowe said, his company had to wait for PBS to schedule it for the air.
In addition to WEDU, PBS stations around Florida and major cities around the country plan to air the film.
He hopes viewers will watch the show and find the same appreciation he found for Tarpon Springs' spongers as a tourist years ago.
"These are unique people that could do this and follow in the steps of their ancestors," Lowe said. "It's a fascinating way of life."
Even Karistinos' family thought so, when he took an advance copy of the film to Greece on a Christmas visit.
He had to translate the English, but they were still entranced with his life.
"They got to see my boat, my dogs, see me cooking, sleeping. They got to know what I am doing," he said.
And others who are not his kin will be interested too, he thinks.
"People, they have no idea about the sponging, and what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico."
--Nora Koch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 771-4304.
[Last modified July 1, 2005, 01:24:21]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]