Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Book Of The Sea’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Book Of The Sea’

In the frozen waters off of Russia’s Bering Strait, Inuit and Chukchi hunters seek out the giant sea mammals that have sustained their people for thousands of years.

In Aleksei Vakhrushev’s The Book Of The Sea, reality and myth blend together as a new generation of hunters sets out to sea to hunt the whales, walruses, and seals that have tied them to these remote shores since the beginning of time.

Alexey Ottoi and Alexander Emelyanov are traditional Chukotka hunters. Alexey is the head of the Lorino rural community. Hunting is in his blood. Along with other hunting groups, he helps provide food for about 1,500 people in his community. Alexander is older; he knows the arctic land and local animals very well. He also hunts to provide for his family. Both men are deeply rooted in their hunting traditions, and their connection to the land and animals.

Clay animation tells the story of the “the woman who gave birth to a whale” and other ancient myths, which interweave beautifully with Alexey and Alexander’s stories. Storytelling is really strong in The Book Of The Sea. Not only do we learn about the Inuit and Chukchi traditions; we also learn how hunting is so integral to their survival.

The mythical or folk stories are filled with deep meaning, metaphors, and allegories. In turn, they complement the hunters’ stories. We see Alexey on the boat with his fellow hunters looking for whales and walruses. Alex and companion go inland camouflaged in white coats, in search for seals. They must be patient yet skillful and stealth in their movements.

The richness and beauty of their hunting tradition and culture are told through excellent cinematography, original music, and the blend of documentary and animated stories. A beautiful film throughout.

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Heidy has a love of fine art history, films, books, world issues, music and science, leading her to share her adventures on her website (www.hyemusings.ca) , and as a contributor at other outlets. She loves sharing the many happenings in Toronto and hopes people will go out and support the arts in any fashion possible.
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