Peninsula College in Forks to Show The Whale, Host Discussion on August 8

Breaching Killer Whale. - Submitted photo
Breaching Killer Whale.
— image credit: Submitted photo


Peninsula College in Forks will bring the true story of Luna, a young wild killer whale, to the silver screen on Friday, August 8.

The documentary, The Whale, will begin at 7:00 pm at the Forks Extension Site at 481 S. Forks Avenue and is free to the public.

The film's screening will be followed by a discussion led by Dr. Richard Osborne, who spent three decades as an orca researcher affiliated with The Whale Museum on San Juan Island and the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs prior to moving to the Olympic Peninsula. He is now a marine biologist and research consultant with The Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks and works on salmon habitat restoration.

Osborne was contracted by NOAA in 2005 to lead the reintroduction of Luna, the abandoned calf this film is about, back to his native habitat. Osborne will answer questions and talk about the challenges that come with attempting to manage interactions between people and wildlife, especially when the wildlife is a large intelligent predator capable of bonding with people.

Earlier, in 2002, Osborne was contracted by NOAA to be the scientist in charge of crowd control around the abandoned orca calf, Springer, when she was temporarily separated from her pod in British Columbia and lost in the waters between West Seattle and Vashon Island. Springer was eventually returned successfully to her family pod.

Luna, an orca, turned up in Nootka Sound, a remote waterway that snakes inland from the Pacific to the old logging town of Gold River, B.C. Separated from his family and his pod, Luna became determined to make friends with people. The documentary explores the ethical and practical questions that arose as people tried to help Luna.

When the documentary, The Whale, was released, it quickly drew rave reviews from critics and audiences alike and was selected as the Critics’ Pick by both The New York Times and Washington Post.

Andy Webster of The New York Times wrote: “There is a gossamer lyricism to The Whale…The nuance of [the whale’s] gestures were wondrous to behold: playful, exuberantly extending the fin of friendship…The issues surrounding the emotional lives of animals…are explored in The Whale with a quiet dignity and gorgeous images.”

Washington Post critic Stephanie Merry exclaimed: “Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit captured spectacular shots of both wildlife and picturesque scenery of evergreen-lined water under vibrant pink sunsets….Visually stunning and emotionally wrought. The Whale begs for post-movie discussion.”

Filmgoers will doubtless recall the earlier cinematic predecessor to The Whale, a moving film entitled Saving Luna, which was released in 2008. In 2009, Eric Desatnik, founder of the Environmental Film Festival at Yale, discovered the film and showed it to Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson, who loved it. All three became executive producers, and Reynolds, who grew up in British Columbia, Canada, near the place where the whale lived, became the film’s narrative voice.  Together they and the original filmmakers worked to produce a new film with added footage, streamlined narrative, and a new voice. The result was The Whale.

In an interview published online on The Humane Society of the United States website, Reynolds explained why he took an active role in the documentary:

“The story was so compelling. The idea that this creature challenged so much of our presumptions about wildlife. That a whale could, would and did reach across that line to connect with us is mystifying. Scientists often debunk the idea that a mammal could experience emotions and/or feelings similar to ours. Luna did this. Luna showed it's possible for a creature—even a whale—to crave connection. Not only needing this connection but demanding it.”

Michael Parfit, a codirector of The Whale along with Suzanne Chisholm, also commented on Luna’s appeal to people. On the official film website, he says: “Some films answer questions for you, but others help you ask them. That’s just like what happened when people met Luna: He opened doors that we didn’t know were there, but we still don’t really know what is out there on the other side. He just gave us hope that we could someday learn.”

For more information on the film series, please contact Peninsula College’s Forks Extension Site at (360) 374-3223.




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