VIFF Review: ‘The Whale and the Raven’ is quiet and gorgeous

Whales are among the more majestic animals on the planet. They’re enormous but graceful, and they play an important part in the cultural history of many of the First Nations peoples of BC. In the Kitimat fjord system, researchers Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray study the orca and humpbacks who make their homes there, and Mirjam Leuze took cameras to chronicle what they do.

The Whale and the Raven is the result and follows is a slightly meandering but absolutely stunning-to-look-at 100 minutes of footage of the north coast of British Columbia.

My most common complaint about documentaries is when they feel in search of a narrative. In this case, it feels like Leuze found two and then couldn’t decide between them. First, there is the story of these two researchers who relocated to the north coast after an epiphany, and second, there is the story of the increased tanker traffic that disrupts the lives and habitat of the whales.

Both stories are interesting, but neither is explored in the depth that I would have liked. In particular, the story of the pipeline projects, their impact on the community of Kitimat, and the proposed increases in ship traffic are all ripe for exploration, and it feels like a missed opportunity.

Still, there’s so much gorgeous footage that it’s hard to feel too bad about this. The BC Coast is beautiful, and the whales are otherworldly, and I could have stared at them both for much longer.

Ultimately, the film points out that we should be leaving nature alone, that our unfettered economic lust comes at the expense of the natural world around us, and gives us a glimpse of what we could ultimately lose.


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