Soraya Simi is an ocean-minded filmmaker, sailor, and environmentalist. Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, she spent her days exploring the desert, fostering her love for the outdoors from an early age. Now in her final semester at USC’s film school in Los Angeles, Soraya has combined her passion for storytelling with her desire to be close to the ocean, bringing awareness to and protecting the environment through film. Simi is currently finishing up a documentary titled, Where The Water Takes Us, that follows a group of college students on a sailing journey in the Caribbean.
Where the Water Takes Us is a documentary by Soraya Simi that follows the transformation that 20 college students undergo while embarking on a sailing adventure in the Caribbean aboard the Brigantine Corwith Cramer. They were at sea for 40 days, sailing from San Juan to Key West while visiting the USVI, The Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman in-between, conducting ocean and climate change research throughout.
Interview with Filmmaker Soraya Simi
Soraya Simi: I intend on devoting my career to making films that illuminate important issues, tell compelling human stories, and hopefully, inspire change. I love capturing images of the ocean and natural world that induce awe and appreciation so that people can see why it matters to protect it.
Soraya Simi: Where the Water Takes Us follows me and 19 other undergrad students living on the Brigantine Corwith Cramer for 40 days conducting ocean and climate change research while sailing from San Juan to Key West.
We pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zones and stepped off as different people than the ones who first boarded. This happened in a myriad of ways: from recognition of our own capabilities and seeing what we could handle, to connecting with the shipboard community and working toward a larger purpose, to seeing the impacts first hand of climate change and understanding how urgent this issue is.
Soraya Simi: I don’t think my generation really has a choice. We either have a planet we can inhabit, with fresh water and food and land and clean air to breathe, or we don’t. It’s really that simple and something no one can ignore or be complacent about. My generation, whether we want to or not, has to be responsible for making a difference.
At an individual level, we need to carefully examine our own consumption and not make any excuses about reducing our negative impact. It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture: to feel disheartened by the larger powers that be that are destroying our planet at an accelerated pace, which is so out of our daily control.
Personally, I try to focus on what I can control daily. I try to always find new ways to cut down on my plastic consumption, to not use products with harsh chemicals, and to pick up trash when I see it. These are small impacts, but impacts nonetheless. If our individual contributions blossom into a communal or generational movement, then that goes from something small to something very, very big.
We just need to really push ourselves and not tolerate excuses.
Soraya Simi: I am optimistic about the power of “awe”. Think of the last time something really swept you away. Was it a view? A song? The way something tasted? Well, I get that feeling every time I’m near water. It’s visceral and inexplicable. As an artist, what I try to communicate first and foremost is the way I feel about the space around me. I strongly believe that stories told the right way can have the power to inspire audiences and offer them a reason to care. If you can connect on an emotional level, then you’ve hit on something core to our universal identity, and can then build on that shared value together.
But the trick is to first make people feel something.