Award-winning documentary filmmaker Oscar Corral and his wife almost canceled their trip to the springs in North Florida back in April when the temperatures dropped.
"It's usually 95 degrees out and you're sweating," said Corral, a 1996 UF journalism graduate and managing director of Explica Media. "But there was a cold front and the air was in the upper 50s."
They made the trip up from Miami anyway and kayaked the Santa Fe River and then visited Blue Springs in Gilchrist County.
"The water was warmer than outside," Corral said. "So I decided to go in and swim, and then I actually didn't want to get out."
Corral, who dedicated two years to filming his latest documentary, “The Fellowship of the Springs” said he is a "springs junkie."
"They are more than a swimming hole," he said. "They have a spiritual aura, they are the source of life, water, and community."
Two weeks after that dip in the water in North Florida, Corral's two-part series aired on PBS in Miami.
The two-hour, two-part series is a result of more than 100 hours of footage and interviews of 130 people.
Since airing in Miami, Corral said he is hoping the film will follow the path of his previous documentary, "Exotic Invaders, Pythons in the Everglades"—which aired nationally on PBS and then was licensed by Netflix and Amazon Prime.
On Saturday, May 22, “The Fellowship of the Springs” will be delivered to viewers on the big screen outdoors at the canoe and kayak outpost Rum 138 in Fort White. The event is the first in a theatrical tour that Corral said he is planning across the state.
"It's an environmental justice film, and I think those have a lot of appeal," Corral said, referring to the increased awareness created by the Suwannee River Water Management District's recent decision to renew Nestlé's access to Ginnie Springs water. "The Nestlé decision awoke people's imagination."
Corral said he interviewed several agencies in Florida, including the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Nikki Fried, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He said Gov. Ron DeSantis did not respond to an interview request.
Corral said it took him a year to raise enough money from foundations and organizations and a year of pitching the film to get it started. His initial goal was to create a one-hour film. But just as filming wrapped up, he entered the pandemic lockdown with all of the footage and decided to turn it into a two-part, two-hour series.
Corral started in the news industry as the winner of a Hearst Journalism award and got hired right out of college to work at Newsday in New York City. He then went on to work at the Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald.
He took a buyout from the Miami Herald in 2009 and started his production company focused on corporate and commercial documentary film.
Corral said this film tells a story: "It explains why Florida has so many environmental problems and that the agencies in charge of protecting it aren't doing a good enough job."
If you go:
- What: The Fellowship of the Springs documentary
- Cost: $20 per ticket
- Where: Rum 138, 2070 SW County Rd. 138, Fort White
- When: 7 p.m., Sat., May 22 (outdoor screening)
- How: Tickets available online