Whaledreamers

2008, Movie, NR, 90 mins

Review

WHALEDREAMERS
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Former-actor Kim Kindersley's heartfelt but scattered documentary focuses on the plight of whales and dolphins, his own spiritual journey and on the travails of an Australian aboriginal tribe whose culture was nearly destroyed by political machinations.

In 1990, Kim Kindersley was mired in free-floating malaise and went searching for his Irish roots. There he had a close encounter with a dolphin that made him reassess his life and values. Kindersley abandoned acting and began traveling the world in search of the wisdom of indigenous people. He documented his experiences, and made a short film that eventually found its way to musician Bunna Lawrie of the Mirning tribe. Originally from Australia's Southern coast, the Mirning were displaced when the government gave their ancestral lands to a tribe whose own lands were poisoned by above-ground nuclear testing. Like all aboriginal peoples, the Mirning's spiritual beliefs are rooted in the concept of Dreamtime, a parallel plane of existence in which the past and the present are united through stories kept alive by totemic and ancestral spirits. When the Mirning were forced inland they were cut off from Miranangu Bay, a sacred spot frequented by whales, their tribal totem. Kindersley and Lawrie became friends and in 1996 conceived the idea of arranging a gathering of elders from whale and dolphin venerating tribes, and much of the film is concerned with the two-year struggle to make the idea a reality, and the sharing of ideas and rituals that occurred when representatives of tribes from Hawaii, Congo, the continental United States, Indonesia, Colombia and New Zealand finally met face to face.

Produced by Julian Lennon and narrated by veteran Australian actor Jack Thompson, WHALEDREAMERS is clearly a labor of love and a call to action, but it's undermined by the sheer volume of topics it tackles in addition to the main subject. Kindersley briefly explores the history of commercial whaling, global warming, the destruction of aboriginal culture and the "stolen generation" of aboriginal children, corporate rapacity and environmental destruction in South America, 9/11, the threat of nuclear devastation and his own emotional ups and downs. They're all relevant to the main story, but the sheer volume of digressions make the film feel shambling and unfocussed. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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