Stephen Amis’ feature documentary spotlights Japanese whaling

The MV Bob Barker in Antarctic waters.

Before, during and after making the comedy The BBQ, director Stephen Amis and executive producer Tait Brady shot a feature documentary on a rather more serious topic: the long-running campaign to stop Japanese fishermen killing whales in the Southern Ocean.

Four years in the making, Defend, Conserve, Protect is having its world premiere this week at the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, California, attended by Amis.

Made in close collaboration with the Sea Shepherd organisation, the film was shot amidst clashes between the Japanese whaling fleet and Sea Shepherd’s boats.

Produced by Amis, Sea Shepherd Australia MD Jeff Hansen and Sea Shepherd colleague Omar Todd, the doc follows a young, passionate and fearless group of activists in their battle to defend the Minke whales as well as exploring the global marine activism movement and the importance of the world’s oceans.

The narration by Canadian actor Dan Aykroyd – a Sea Shepherd supporter – looks at events from the whales’ point of view, connecting the dots between whale hunting, Japan’s determination to maintain a custom even they no longer defend, and the impact of whaling on the marine ecosystem.

The budget was financed by private investors, Union Roth Capital, crowdfunding, Revolution Pictures and Amis and Brady’s Label Distribution. Chris Goodes was the sound designer, Ronnie Minder composed the original score and Amis and Alana Tompson were the editors.

Defend, Conserve, Protect will have its Australian premiere at the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival in Launceston and Hobart in May. Label will release the film around Australia mid-year.

Amis tells IF he co-founded and co-manages Label with Brady because he wanted to be in total control of his productions, including financing the P&A, along with a desire to support independent Australian cinema.