Documentary Review: ‘A Whale Of A Tale’

Documentaries bring stories from far and wide. While seated within the comforts of our home, we are able to understand, learn, reflect and entertain ourselves all at once. They are educational and motivational, carrying a strong message that often resonates at some level. One such documentary ‘A whale of a tale’ brings us the story from a small little town called Taiji in Japan. More than just an educational take of the town, it touches the controversial divide between culture and environment.

While practicing a 400 old tradition of hunting whales and dolphins for their meat, village dwellers of Taiji did not see it as a trouble in any way. As part of their culture, they considered this act as a normal system. Following a controversial documentary The Cove that exposed this practice to the world, Taiji became the center of attention. Soon as animal activists and environment volunteers rushed to understand the inhuman task, it gained instant popularity. Though fishing and hunting are usual activities around the globe, this unusual tradition is different for attacking whales and dolphins in large numbers. Somewhere between extinction and environmental insensitivity, the distinction is quite blur. ‘A whale of a tale’ strives to answer this question through diverse perspectives, while providing the facts in a clear manner.

Filmmaker Megumi Sasaki has done an incredible job of presenting the tale in a simple format. A story that flows at a smooth pace, the motive is education, enlightenment and exposure. Rather than hiding the details with an aim to be diplomatic, the documentary seeks opinions from local fisherman, residents, animal activists and an American journalist. An eye opening take on a hidden topic far away, the documentary exhibits the power of media and the camera. How much is too much or too little needs to be addressed before mankind takes undue advantage of nature. Can we continue to exploit the nature on the sole basis of our power, tradition, culture or beliefs must be answered before we destroy the planet?

It depicts the aspect of global connectivity as we are no longer divided by lack of facilities. And while actions of one village or town can impact ecological balance, it is only essential to ensure good practices all around. The documentary includes interviews, videos and footages from different angles with an aim to present the truth as it is. It shows the controversial divide between Western thinking and Eastern traditions that needs to find a common ground. Humanity must unite to create a better environment for the future generations. Touching all these aspects, ‘A whale of a tale’ is a must-watch eye opener. It also touches history of the tradition and why the practice is followed till the modern times.

One must watch this tale with an open mindset before picking sides right from the start. An open approach will allow proper understanding between beliefs of different people all around the world. If the practice was essential in the past, is it still necessary today? And if it is just a tradition, can it be replaced for the environmental balance now? All of this must be attended to before it is too late.

A WHALE OF A TALE will open theatrically in New York on Friday, August 17 (The Quad) and Los Angeles on Friday, August 24 (Laemmle Music Hall) with a nationwide release to follow.

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