"The Whale" is a new documentary from celebrity producers Scarlett Johansson and her ex-husband Ryan Reynolds, who also narrates. I reviewed the film here at Spout back in September, and it's surprisingly still in theaters in spite of the disappointing amount of attention it has received and the disappointing gross it has accumulated. I shouldn't be that amazed that it's not more popular since neither "Project Nim" nor "The Cove" were blockbuster level documentaries either and each deals, differently, in similar subject matter to "The Whale." People want to see cute animals in uplifting stories, not complicated contemplations of man's treatment of other species.
And "The Whale" is especially difficult for people who like whales. The preteen me might have had trouble with the notion that whales, especially orcas (killer whales), are not to be looked at as a friend, pet or entertainer. As I wrote previously, there's an irony to the fact that this film could easily be adapted into a narrative feature along the lines of "Big Miracle" (it seems one film "Luna: Spirit of the Whale" is based on the same story), yet its whole point is to de-dramatize, de-cutify and de-anthropomorphize wild and captive animals. It tells us the hard truth that even animals who seem to want and enjoy human interaction should not receive our affection and attention.
"The Whale" is one of the most underrated docs of the past year and deserves to be seen. It is currently playing in Daytona Beach and continues to expand to other cities. Check its screenings listing page for engagements presently booked through April (you should also follow my weekly Docs In Theaters column at the Doc Channel Blog for updates) or contact them to request it be shown near you. And hopefully it will be released to DVD sometime soon. Check out the trailer below:
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