“When we think of wild animals, we think of them as coming to us for food,” says Suzanne Chisholm, the producer of the film, The Whale.
“We are used to feeling that animals push their way through life without being aware,” says Michael Parfit, the director of the film. “However, once I experienced Luna, I couldn’t feel that way anymore.”
Luna was a young orca whale that lost contact with his family, and took refuge along a thin strip of ocean, known as Nootka Sound. He appeared to be lonely, until he made the decision to adopt humans as his playmates.
“To me, one of the things that most exemplified what he was, and what he was doing, was our very first encounter,” Michael explains.
We were zooming across this bay, when suddenly—he just exploded right beside the boat, boom, with this huge splash—this guy was right in our face—his precision and intention was so dramatic, he clearly wanted to meet us.”
“Our lives were changed from that moment, because he instantly became this three-dimensional life,” recalls Michael. “We zoomed over to the shore, put our cameras up—and there he was just lying on his side, looking at us.”
“I was sitting there at one point, and (Luna) came over, and I didn’t think it was appropriate for him to be there, so I ignored him—he was pushing the boat around, so I started talking to him,” says Michael. “I said, I don’t want you here; this is a bad place for you to be, and he stopped what he was doing, came up to the surface, gave me the eyeball—started to squeak and went away.”
Michael wondered if he was responding to his emotions.
“I felt that my own ability to perceive what he was doing, was simply not sophisticated enough to interpret,” Michael explains.
This guy had this complicated way of communicating with other members of his own species, that he was trying on us, and we just weren’t getting it.”
Luna’s trusting nature would eventually lead to his death on March 10, 2006, when he was sucked into the propeller of a passing tugboat. The young whale was only trying to capture the attention of the boats passengers, as he had done countless times before.
His accidental death left behind many unanswered questions, including how officials might have handled the situation differently to save his life, and ultimately bring him back to his family. However, one question will remain for Michael, Suzanne, and every other human whose heart Luna touched: What message was he so desperately trying to deliver, and why didn’t (couldn’t) we listen sooner?
“One day we humans may meet an intelligent being from another world,” says Ryan Reynolds, narrator of the film, The Whale (2011). “Hollywood tells us that this stranger will fly down in a spaceship, and will look a bit like us. But maybe it won‘t be like that. Maybe it will be like this.”