Last week I went down to the Vancouver Aquarium to attend a screening of Saving Luna, a documentary by the filmmaking team of Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit. The film tells the story of Luna, a young killer whale that appeared on its own in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the summer of 2001. Over the next several years the lone whale attracted a great deal of public curiosity. Worried that someone was going to get hurt -- either animal or human -- the Department of Fisheries and Oceans asked the Vancouver Aquarium to capture Luna and transport him south to the vicinity of Puget Sound where it was hoped he might reconnect with his family pod. The First Nations of Nootka Sound had other ideas, the capture attempt failed, and Luna continued to live by himself in the Sound until his accidental, but not unexpected, death in March 2006. (I should mention that I have written about Luna myself in a book called Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales, published last year by Harbour Publishing and co-authored with the marine biologist Gil Hewlett.)
Saving Luna is a tremendously beautiful film to look at. Parfit and Chisholm initially came to the Sound to write a magazine article about Luna. They stayed to take up residence in the area and managed to obtain some terrific and moving visuals of the young whale in his natural habitat. Beyond that, the film raises difficult questions about human interaction with other animal species. More and more we are drawn into contact with "wild" animals, be they black bears in our garbage or killer whales such as Luna. Usually the result spells disaster for the wild animal, as it ultimately did for Luna. Saving Luna is a thoughtful presentation of some of the issues involved. After touring on the film festival circuit for the past year, it has come to Vancouver in a theatrical release. If you get a chance to see it, either in a theatre or on television, don't miss it.