Review: Haulout

Warming seas and rising temperatures bring on unexpected change and tragedy.

On a remote coast of the Russian Arctic, Chakilev waits alone in a wind-battered cabin to witness a natural event that happens there once a year.

Sibling filmmakers Maxim and Evgenia Arbugaeva take their time immersing the audience in the rugged beauty of the landscape as they wait alongside Chakilev for the beach’s new guests arrive—tens of thousands of walruses.

By the end of the film you learn that a haulout only happens because of a lack of sea ice for the walruses to rest on, and that this mass gathering results in a number of deaths as these creatures stampede and jostle for room.

The film is quiet, almost mundane at times.  The shots of the landscape are breathtaking.  You often think of how privileged you are to witness what appears on screen without actually making the trip.  The observational approach is used throughout the film.  Chakilev speaks into his dictaphone a few times but other than that, all you experience is atmospheric sound.

This film approaches making a film about the impact of climate change in an unusual and subtle way. It is a nominee for an Oscar in the documentary short category this year.  The film is available to watch on The New Yorker website at the time of writing this review.

More info & links:

  • Director: Maxim Arbugaev, Evgenia Arbugaeva
  • Cast: Maxim Chakilev
  • Haulout on IMDB
  • Haulout Official Website

Jith Paul

Web Designer, Editor, Film Reviewer

Jith Paul is an independent filmmaker based in Ottawa. While pursuing a career as a software engineer, he decided to take a detour to follow his passion for film and filmmaking, establishing Treepot Media in 2010.

He is a co-founder of the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival, and editor of the film613 blog.

When he is not busy fighting crime, he coordinates the efforts of an international team of software developers and service providers as the Team Lead for Digital Development at CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel.