To say that the earth is in danger is to put it lightly. The ice caps are melting, weather is becoming more and more unpredictable, and the doomsday preachers are getting louder. The need to conserve our natural resources has never been more imperative. Whales play an often overlooked and crucial role in contributing to the world’s oxygen supply, yet not everyone seems to acknowledge this, with Japan resuming commercial whaling just this week, killing these animals under the guise of “science research”. As such, the timing of ‘Defend, Conserve, Protect’, a nail-biting documentary following attempts to shut down Japanese whaling fleets, could not be more justified.
Four years in the making, ‘Defend, Conserve, Protect’ follows the journey of Sea Shepherd, a volunteer group dedicated to conserving marine life across the Southern Ocean as they work to confront and hopefully put a stop to Japanese whaling activities. Having saved over 6,000 whales across 12 campaigns, Sea Shepherd have both the experience and the ethical high ground on their side. The journey from Tasmania to Antarctica is long, difficult and emotionally trying for those involved, but it’s a testament to their bravery that the crew never gives up hope, even in moments of the documentary where it seems like hope is lost. This is a crew that knows the risks of their mission but regardless face it with a steely determination, knowing that even in the face of extremely low temperatures, boat fuel freezing up and the risk of capsizing, stopping whaling is far too important to let slide.
Footage of the journey is inter cut with information about the majestic Minke whales that Sea Shepherd are trying to save, stressing the importance of saving not only their lives, but conserving marine habitats. Dan Aykroyd (‘Ghostbusters’) lends his voice to the documentary, acting as a voice for the whales themselves. It is even more heartbreaking that such gentle creatures are hunted with the brutality and force that the documentary shows the Japanese whalers utilising.
Despite the 75-minute runtime, ‘Defend, Conserve, Protect’ makes an incredible impact. It should come as no surprise that a documentary on whaling has its confronting moments; shots of dead whales invoke anger at the injustice that brings tears to your eyes and a shake to your fist. The anger, heartbreak and resilience of the crew bleed into every facet of this passionately made documentary, and it has been a very long time since a documentary has made me feel that way.
The anger, heartbreak and resilience of the crew bleed into every facet of this passionately made documentary.
‘Defend, Conserve, Protect’ is a riveting documentary engineered not only to celebrate the bravery of the Sea Shepherd crew, but to open the audience’s eyes to the urgency needed to end whaling once and for all. Prepare to leave the cinema inspired and moved.