'Eyes of Islanders' documentary film will highlight the splendor of the San Juans

A photograph of a crab that was submitted for Huppenthal
A photograph of a crab that was submitted for Huppenthal's photo book.
— image credit: Anthony Martinez photo

It will take you soaring over the blue-green San Juan Islands, plunging beneath the sea’s surface to peruse underwater creatures, into local hangout spots and face-to-face with more than a dozen individual islanders.

All from your couch.

“Eyes of Islanders: an archive of island community” is a new video in the works by Orcas Islander Alex Huppenthal, designed to introduce the world to Orcas Island in comprehensive video format.

“It’s 27 minutes, so it’ll be fast and fun,” Huppenthal told the Sounder – but he was a bit cagey and mysterious about the details. “How can I talk about this without giving it away?” he asked.

He did tell us the film will include interviews and scenes from around the islands, musically back-dropped by pieces from Katie Gray and other island musicians. A historical section will share “important, funny and enjoyable moments.” Also featured: stunning photography by talented community members who submitted work for another of Huppenthal’s projects: a photography book called “Through the Eyes of Islanders.”

“The goal is to put together as many iconic images of the island as we can … in a video that hopes to capture the beauty, people, nature and events of the island,” Huppenthal said. “It isn’t about my vision of Orcas Island, or the San Juan Islands. It’s the vision islanders have of their homes, friends, jobs, dreams and the struggle to maintain their homes, incomes, and way of life in the face of drastic shifts in the economy. We have so many events that we celebrate, and so many challenges islanders face daily, with a smile and without a wince.”

The film will also touch on how islanders use social media to connect, network and support one another.

Huppenthal says his commitment to the project involves $20,000 in footage and labor. Others have stepped up to provide support, and he’s still looking for “like-minded, community-centric” backers for the project.

“If we find enough support on Orcas, the focus of the film will be on Orcas Island,” he said. Orcas islanders Joe Cohen and Martha Farish have pledged support and are listed as the film’s executive producers, and John Gorton has provided video footage from an extensive film library he has developed over past years.

Huppenthal expects the film to be completed early next year and screened here in the islands.

“Because I own a business in Aspen, Colo., we’ll have air time on Grassroots Television in Aspen as well, where a screening will take place in the spring time ... just in time for tourist season here,” Huppenthal said.

He said CBS has bought exclusive rights to a few clips from the film.

Huppenthal has been photographing since 1984 and producing film and videos for the past 10 years.

“My hope is that people will watch this short 27-minute film and leave with a smile. The bigger the smile, the more successful the film is,” he said.

A teaser short video is online, on YouTube.


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