The Whaler Boy 2020
Distributed by Film Movement
Produced by Elena Bystrova and Pavel Gorin
Directed by Philipp Yuryev
Streaming, 94 mins
History; Sociology; Teen Culture
Date Entered: 10/06/2022Reviewed by Johnnie N. Gray, Technology Services Librarian, Christopher Newport University
A young boy lives in a community of whalers in a small Russian village becomes entranced by a webcam girl on an adult cam site. Because of his innocence with technology and other cultures, he becomes infatuated with the image and thinks she is talking and looking only at him even though other men are chatting with her. This is very much a coming-of-age story as well as a sexual awakening. Alone, he attempts to cross the Bering Strait to Alaska to see his virtual love. Along his short journey, he regrets trying to leave his community, mainly out of frustration and the realization he is in over his head. He ultimately realizes that his whaling community provided a sense of family and love that he needed all along.
Words such as haunting, gritty and hopeful come up while watching this film. The fantasy world seen online is so far removed from the whaling village reality that the stark contrasts provide a humorous element to the film. The visuals are raw as when whales are sliced open and even haunting as the young boy encounters an upright whale skull in the ground, like a totem. On-site locations bring a documentary feel to the visuals. Viewers are treated with a glimpse into a whaling village, their traditions and ultimate survival.
This film would be well received by sociology students and those studying other cultures. The divide between a perceived America and the village are complete opposites, but the struggles of a young man maturing can be a shared learning experience across cultures. Because of the online chat room content, college students would fare better with understanding the use of such content in the film. Enjoyable and engaging, this film is a lovely homage to cultures that seem untouched by time.
Awards:Winner, Venice Days Director's Award, Venice Film Festival; Winner, Roberto Rossellini Award for Best Film, Pingyao Int'l. Film Festival; Winner, Best Direction, Sochi Open Russian Film Festival; Winner, Best Actor, Sochi Open Russian Film Festival
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