It is considered as one of the most mysterious existing creatures, often over-exploited for commercial reasons and then acknowledged as Earth angel for its fundamental role in maintaining liveable conditions on our planet. Its name is 'Whale'. Whales, in their various species, are the ambassadors of healthy marine ecosystem. On the 9th February 2023, a new film production was presented in world preview at the Grimaldi Forum, by the will of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, main sponsor together with UNESCO. Les Gardiennes de la Planète (The Gardians of the Planet) directed by Jean-Albert Lièvre is an interesting documentary whose storytelling by Jean Dujardin wants to highlight this marine mammal from a new point of view.
Everything starts from a true fact. A humpback whale beached on an isolated shoreline, so a group of men and women organise the rescue. Through their efforts we are pushed to consider the extraordinary potential of cetaceans that can be defined as "citizens of the oceans' world", having thrived for more than 50 million years.
« I was able to discover virtually every environment on this planet and every aspect of the kind of cinema, from larger animals to ants », Jean-Albert Lièvre, film director.
The film director pointed out: « After a few years of shooting in Europe for Japanese commercials, I approached nature filming (...) and I found myself carrying a major documentary series, set almost everywhere on the planet, under the guidance of Jean-Marie Baufle and Gérald Calderon. From Nepal to India, from the plains of the Masai Mara to the top of the Ruwenzori mountains, from the mangroves of Mexico to the tropical forests of Costa Rica. (...) I was able to discover virtually every environment on this planet and every aspect of the kind of cinema, from larger animals to ants ».
« In one of those trips, I had the chance to swim with whales, for the first time. It was an experience of such intensity, such emotion, that I have always wanted to share it », Jean-Albert Lièvre, film director.
« In one of those trips, I had the chance to swim with whales, for the first time. It was an experience of such intensity, such emotion, that I have always wanted to share it ». The director in fact witnessed a unique meeting during his whale-watching off the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was hard to find those fantastic creatures, so he decided then to dive in the waters. Suddenly, the rocky sea bed began to move, as if there was an earthquake, and Jean-Albert Lièvre came extremely close with a huge humpback whale. The monumental marine mammal began to dance in front of him, almost celebrating this rendezvous with an exchange of 'smiles'. That experience changed his life and the dream of filming the whales could be fulfilled about thirty years later.
The Gardens of the Planet results from the personal experience of a small group of operators, including the film director, who went on an intercontinental journey with the support, in every stage, of local experts. Notably, fishermen, divers, drone experts and sound engineers.
As for this film production, they worked on three stages by collecting shootings from Greenland, Mexico, Argentina, Polynesia, Brittany, Mediterranean and Normandy, counting on local team in South Africa, Australia, Tonga and Kamchatka as well as commissioned photographers and operators (Antarctica, Hawaii, Norway). This approach allowed the working group to have a certain flexibility and to be able to wait as much as it was necessary to take the best images at the best time and conditions. Good weather, good underwater visibility, lots of patience, reactivity and luck are just some of the winning ingredients.
This has also made it possible to tell the story from an unusual point of view, that of the protagonists: the whales. The team has always tried to operate in the most discreet possible way in order to leave the whales free to express themselves. In fact, every minimum human or technical noise is intercepted by cetaceans that can be influenced in their behaviours. All these efforts seem to have borne fruit. The effect is totally empathetic for viewers who really have the opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of these huge mammals, which are divided into many species.
Putting whales on the big screen was the ambitious target of The Guardians of the Planet. The biodiversity of this aquatic species, generically defined whale, is in fact an extraordinary example of adaptability, intelligence and resistance. And there is still much to discover about their environment including the language they use. Their contribution to the growth of phytoplankton is crucial, pushing then the absorption of CO2 in the sea depths and the production of oxygen, up to half of the total at global level.
Some of them, like the blue whale, is about to disappear, strongly caused by anthropic activity (e.g.: pollution, noise, collision with vessels, fishing nets, etc.).
Their extinction would therefore have disastrous consequences on the entire Planet Earth. Let's act to stop this misfortune! This is the final message that Jean-Albert Lièvre would like to convey us. *** >> Under the umbrella of Echo Studio, this film production is also aimed to play an educational role, helping to protect the marine ecosystem through concrete actions the audience could be pushed to do. Notably, reducing ocean plastic and noise pollution. To know more about the project Les Gardiennes de la Planète please visit: www.lesgardiennesdelaplanete-lefilm.com
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By Maurice Abbati
Springer International Publishing
LA BALEINE À BOSSE Nom latin : Megaptera novaeangliae Taille : 11 à 18 m Poids : 25 à 40 tonnes Longévité : jusqu’à 50 ans Signe particulier : son incroyable chant de séduction Lieux de tournage : Antarctique, Tahiti, Mexique, Tonga et Afrique du Sud LA BALEINE BLEUE Nom latin : Balaenoptera musculus Taille : 20 à 30 m Poids : 75 à 200 tonnes Longévité : 70 à 90 ans Signe particulier : plus gros animal vivant sur notre planète Lieu de tournage : Mexique LA BALEINE GRISE Nom latin : Eschrichtius robustus Taille : 12 à 15 m Poids : 15 à 35 tonnes Longévité : jusqu’à 70 ans Signe particulier : sa tête, très petite comparée à son corps Lieu de tournage : Mexique LA BALEINE FRANCHE Nom latin : Eubalaena australis Taille : 14 à 18 m Poids : 30 à 80 tonnes Longévité : jusqu’à 80 ans Signe particulier : son énorme mâchoire inférieure Lieu de tournage : Argentine LA BALEINE BORÉALE Nom latin : Balaena mysticetus Taille : 15 à 20 m Poids : 75 à 100 tonnes Longévité : plus de 200 ans Signe particulier : ses fanons géants de 4 m de long, un record ! Lieu de tournage : Groenland LE CACHALOT Nom latin : Physeter macrocephalus Taille : 12 à 20 m Poids : 15 à 45 tonnes Longévité : jusqu’à 70 ans Signe particulier : sa grosse tête en forme de parallélépipède Lieu de tournage : Île Maurice