Past Event

Documentary Discussion: The Whale

September 20, 2022
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

The Whale (1 hour 25 minutes)

Watch the film streamed via Columbia University Libraries and join the discussion.

One summer in a fjord called Nootka Sound on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, a young killer whale whom people name Luna gets separated from his pod. Like humans, orcas are highly social and depend on their families, but Luna finds himself desperately alone. So he tries to make contact with people.

People fall in love with him—a cook on an old freighter, a gruff fisheries officer, an elder and a young man from a First Nations band. But the authorities decide that being friendly with Luna is bad for him, and try to keep him and people apart.

This effort becomes hilarious and baffling. Policemen arrest people for rubbing Luna’s nose. Fines are levied. When the government officials tell the locals they cannot look at Luna, people still set out to meet him, like smugglers carrying friendship through the dark.

Those who love Luna don’t agree on how to help him. The fisheries officer wants Luna captured and trucked away to try to force him to connect with his family. A young man from the First Nations claims Luna is the spirit of a chief. The elder believes Luna is supernatural, the sea’s source of wisdom and justice.

Then conflict comes to Nootka Sound. The government officials build a huge net. The First Nations’ members bring out their canoes. Then as the two sides start to fight over Luna on the wind-swept water, the young whale has all the friends he wants. As the officer tries to lead Luna into the net, the First Nations elder sings and paddles and tries to lead him away, and Luna plays among the boats.

Nothing goes as planned on Nootka Sound. Even the filmmakers get swept up in events that catch everyone by surprise and challenge the very nature of that special and mysterious bond we call friendship.

Contact Information

Emeritus Professors in Columbia (EPIC)
(212) 854-8083