Former UVic student’s film documents plight of coastal whales

A feature-length documentary critical of the liquefied natural gas exporting plant currently being built in the Kitimat area is bound to draw a crowd in Victoria, where protests against the tanker traffic the pipeline will produce have been plentiful.

But there’s an added layer of interest for local filmgoers where the documentary The Whale and the Raven is concerned. Vancouver’s Andrew Williamson, a former University of Victoria student who spent the majority of his teen years on Salt Spring Island, served as a producer on the National Film Board of Canada co-production, and will be in attendance at 7 tonight and Thursday when the film has its Victoria première at UVic theatre Cinecenta (Nov. 27 and 28, Student Union Building, 3800 Finnerty Rd. Tickets are $7.75, $6.75 for students and seniors).

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Wilkinson, 47, will answer questions from the audience prior to the screenings, something he has done at premières in Toronto and Vancouver, with a range of results. “What I appreciate about the approach of [German writer-director Mirjam Leuze], who is not Canadian, was to try and see it from different perspectives. One of the things that attached us to the project early was that it wasn’t going to be a black-and-white issue.”

The film looks at the $40-billion project by LNG Canada and the effect that it will have on the whale ecosystem in the affected area, from Kitimat and Terrace to Prince Rupert. Whale researchers delve into the marine environment and its inhabitants, while looking at the issue of governance, both from a provincial standpoint and from that of the surrounding First Nations. It’s a complex issue, but Wilkinson said the film team does not try to solve it during the film.

“There are not a lot of jobs up there [north]. I may have my personal opinions on what we need to do from a climate-change perspective, but I’m not trying to figure out how to pay my rent or my mortgage, and keep my kids in clothes. Those are tough decisions people have to make. If we’re not all going to band together and transition as a country into a different fuel infrastructure, we have to accept that some people are going to have to work.”

Williamson came to the project through his Vancouver production company, Cedar Island Films, and said his work on The Whale and the Raven will have an impact on his future projects. “There is anger at some of the injustice, but I’ve always been motivated to take action through the skills I have, to keep the conversations going.”

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