Haulout (2022) is a masterpiece.

Nominated for Best Documentary Short Film at the 95th Academy Awards.
Directed by brother and sister duo Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva this astonishing documentary short film features the Russian scientist Maxim Chakilev, who observes the life of walruses at Cape Heart-Stone in the Chukchi Sea. The Chukchi Sea Shelf is the westernmost part of the continental shelf of the United States and the easternmost part of the continental shelf of Russia. Within this shelf, the 50-mile (80 km) Chukchi Corridor acts as a passageway for one of the largest marine mammal migrations in the world.
In addition to directing, the Arbugaev siblings wrote the screenplay and did the astonishing cinematography (see the mouth-dropping ariel shot below) while Evgenia coedited the movie with Joshua Chadwick.
The amazing sound design is by Anastasia Dushina.

The Chukchi Sea

A “haulout” is a place where, once a year, walruses, after having traversed hundreds of miles of open ocean, return to the place of their birth to mate. Unfortunately, with global warming, almost all of the ice flows have vanished and most of the walruses have to crowd onto a tiny beach – over 100,000 adults with their newborn babies crushed up against one another. There is one ariel shot that is breathtaking in its shocking brutality – one teeming mass of flesh moving in one direction, then another.

Maxin Chakilev

Like people trapped in an overcrowded English soccer stadium, the walruses experience waves of panic setting off massive stampedes which crush the adults and particularly the defenseless babies. There are heartbreaking scenes where the panicked and injured animals try to escape the crush by wandering into Chakilev’s hut. However, this possible sanctuary is off-limits. After the mating and the exhausted walruses leave for their return journeys by sea, the beach is littered with corpses, both adults and babies alike.

“Haulout” is a must-see movie. Nothing I have ever witnessed has brought home the consequences of global warming with such power and urgency.


Now streaming on MUBI

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