It’s been a while since I’ve immersed myself in the field of ‘edutainment’ – that is, entertainment that educates. While I like to consider myself fairly ofay with all forms of cinema, the realm of films that exist to teach and inform people (particularly students and families) about parts of the world has long eluded me. So when the chance to review the WA made and Indian ocean focused documentary, Whale Super Highway, came up, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would it be a welcome occasion to catch what is going on in the world of Australian made edutainment, but it’d also give me a chance to find out what the deal is with ‘The Dome’, the format of choice that Whale Super Highway would be screened in.
The film itself is a beautifully captured film about the migration pattern of the Humpback whale. Following these aquatic giants for parts of their journey from the peak of Western Australia, right down to the icy colds of Antarctica, are a wealth of knowledgeable marine interested folks, including whale expert Chris Burton, and Marine Mammal Scientist Bec Wellard. I’ll touch on the footage in a moment, because at times it’s visually overwhelming, but before that, it’s worthwhile noting that the ‘educational’ part of this edutainment film never actually feels like you’re being taught anything. Thanks to the narration by Marta Dusseldorp, you always feel like you’re being taken along for a nice stroll – or, rather, swim – through the waters off the West Australian coast, and in turn, the information you’re provided about these majestic giants feels like you’re being included in their world, rather than dictated to.
In turn, this makes moments where you learn all about whale poo and snot all the more entertaining. Sure, there’s an aspect to this that feels purely directed at the kids in the audience, but heck, I still got a solid chuckle over hearing all manner of facts about how what goes into a whale comes out. And, thanks to the infrequent use of CGI imagery, and because of the visual aspect of ‘The Dome’ cinema that Whale Super Highway is being presented in, there’s a icky joyousness to the visual of being surrounded in pink whale poop. Scenes like this go far in showing how well a little bit of scatological humour goes.
But, it’s not all laughs, as there’s a welcome reminder about the impact humans have on the world of whales. With the increasing impact of climate change affecting us all, Whale Super Highway works to remind audiences that it’s not just us that will be harmed by an ever warming climate. And, with facts that’ll surprise any Perthian (such as the massive underwater gulf that’s right on our doorstep) who catches this entertaining flick at Cinefest Oz or at screenings that’ll take place at Freo’s Maritime Museum, there’s a welcome reminder that this isn’t something that takes place in some far off country, but instead, it’s supremely local.
And maybe that’s what I’m most buzzed about with Whale Super Highway. The local aspect of the story being told reminds us that while we’re busy at work, living our lives on land, raising kids, or hiking the hills, there’s a perpetual migration occurring right in our waters of some beautiful, giant mammals that deserve our attention and respect.
Which leads me to ‘The Dome’: this is a fully immersive dome cinema that encompasses your entire vision. From the outside, it’s deceptively small, but when you enter it and sit down in your chair, you suddenly become overwhelmed with the world of the whales. As someone who can’t use virtual reality headsets, this gave me the immersive feeling that that does, but without the nausea and unsteadiness that comes with that experience. This is a great, unique experience, that’ll certainly excite kids to no end, and will easily keep any adult entertained too. I had a wonderful time learning about the migration of the whales, and the visuals alone really help immerse you in this world.
If you’re in Busselton while Cinefest Oz is on, make sure to catch the screenings down there, and don’t miss the world premiere on Wednesday August 28th.
Director: Julia Redwood
Director of Photography: Jon Shaw
Narrator: Marta Dusseldorp