Sure you could go ahead and rent this week’s big Hollywood release (today it’s Captain America – check out my review here), but why not take a chance and pick up a film that will both entertain you and expand your horizons at the same time?
Each week, Toronto Movies Examiner will suggest a documentary well worth checking out.
“The oceans are essential for all life on Earth. Without healthy oceans, we die.” – Paul Watson
If the fact that 2009’s dolphin activism film The Cove made over a million dollars at the box office, as well as picking up an Oscar for Best Documentary, is any indication of what interests normally doc-resistant film audiences, then Toronto-born director Trish Dolman can expect her similarly-themed film to make a splash in its own right.
Dolman spent almost a decade following the infamous Captain Paul Watson, Canada’s bad boy of the environmental movement, star of reality show Whale Wars, original member and now sometimes enemy of Greenpeace and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, one of the few charitable organizations that boasts a 100% activist agenda dedicated to saving whales, marine mammals and the entire oceanic system.
Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson begins Watson’s story with some excellent archival footage showing the work he did alongside the other founding members of Greenpeace. They were the first group to take small zodiac boats out into the ocean and put themselves in between the dreaded whaling boats and their unsuspecting prey, they were also notorious for heading into the northern most wilds of Canada to protect baby seals from being clubbed to death. We soon find out that, despite all of the good work they did together, Watson’s opinions of how they could help differed from Greenpeace’s more pacifist stance. Greenpeace endeavored to stay a mainly protest organization, while Watson was game to up the ante, taking the fight to the doorsteps of the ocean’s worst enemies. While Greenpeace is content to block the whales from being harpooned, Watson aims for an “aggressive non-violence” kind of approach. In other words, he’ll ram a whaling ship that’s partaking in illegal poaching, even if it means taking his own ship down in the process.
The film accurately captures Watson just as he is: a larger than life vigilante who admittedly cares more about his cause than he does his own family, and doesn’t shy away from the harsher truths of his life and personality. It makes for riveting cinema that’s educational yet still manages to ratchet up the action as Dolman and her crew tag along on Watson’s boat, chasing down Japanese ships in the sleekly stunning Antarctic waters. It’s both an inspiration and a cautionary tale…not unlike Paul Watson himself.
The film was a Top 10 audience favourite at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival, enjoyed a successful run at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox during the summer and now makes its way onto DVD (with loads of deleted scenes!). Look for it at one of Toronto’s many fine indie video stores.
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