Themes and Key Words:
Human Interest, The Sea, Adventure, Ecology
High Latitudes Ltd.
The Book of the Sea tells the story of a family in the indigenous community of the Bering Strait in the Far East of Russia, where Inuit and Chukchi live. Their story of everyday survival is enriched with animated local myths that at times prevail reality.
MORE ABOUT FILM
This is a cinema vérité account of a family and the community around it throughout a period of over two years. The film is set in Lorino, a village in the west coast of the Bering Strait.
Alexei Ottoy, 53, is the leader of this community. He and his co-workers hunt and provide basic food for over 1,500 residents of the village, most of them unemployed. Alexei also represents his people before officials and politicians, fighting for the better life of his village. He fights s for the allocation of hunting quotas for marine mammals, for the change of hunting regulations because of the climate change and for the protection of his region from the activity of the subsoil users.
Alexei tries hard to pass on his skills to his son Igor, 33, and take him hunting as much as possible. Hunting is the basic occupation here, a way to survive. But Igor is an alcoholic like very many others in the village and spends days sitting at his kitchen table dosing off with a bottle of vodka in front of him. Alexei himself became sober many years ago, but he still undergoes therapy at a Moscow clinic every four years.
Galya, 50, is Alexei’s wife and the big Mama of the Ottoy clan. She is a “keeper of the hearth” as well as a professional nurse at the local clinic of Lorino, thus one of the most respected persons of the community. Through her the film shows the role of the woman in the contemporary indigenous society where female power is growing.
Ottoy family’s struggle to keep the culture and pass it on to the next generation develops on the backdrop of the untamed ecosystem of the Bering Strait and its rich wildlife – colonies of seabirds living on the cliffs, walruses sunning themselves on rocks, and schools of whales navigating the frigid waters.
We follow father and the son during a seal hunt in winter, during the whaling season in May, and while gathering the eggs of seabirds in early summertime. Finally, we film them as they contend with drifting Arctic ice packs, which block their way home from a successful walrus hunt at the end of the November hunting season. In most cases, it is a duel against nature, harsh weather, enormous animals, and their own frailties and failings.
We document our characters from season to season. Through observation of their day-to-day life we see how they struggle to maintain ancestors’ traditions but also try to become part of the modern world.
MORE ABOUT DIRECTOR – Aleksei Vakhrushev
Aleksei Vakhrushev is the Producer and Director of some of the best-known Russian documentaries of the past few years. One of his works, The Tundra Book, was recipient of the prestigious NIKE award of the Russian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for “Best Documentary of the Year.” The film went on to win all other Russian documentary awards and was screened at numerous film festivals around the world, including Hot Docs, Vision du Reel, Documenta Madrid, the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards, and more.
Aleksei is an Inuk, who was born and raised on the Chukchi Peninsula in the Far East of the Russian Federation. Upon graduating from the Director’s Department of the Russian State Film School (VGIK) in 1996, he launched his career with a documentary entitled The Time When Dreams Are Melting. The film tells the true story of his native Yupik Inuit people of northeastern Russia. His unique insider’s perspective group offered a fresh new look at the lives, challenges, and aspirations of the indigenous peoples living on the Russian side of the Bering Strait. It was the first time their story was ever captured on film.
He continued to film his best work in his native land, focusing on the lives and problems of the people living there. The Birds of Naukan (1996) is a visually stunning 35mm film about an Inuit settlement on the Dezhnev Cape, which was dismantled at the start of the Cold War. Evicted from their ancestral land, the people of Naukan still struggle to preserve their cultural identity. This film was followed by The Island, The Hunters of Cold Shores, and more. The Book of the Sea is his latest project.
Aleksei has been a member of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology since the early 2000s. For five incredible years, he and his crew produced a Russian National Geographic series for Channel 1 (Russia’s major state broadcasting corporation) and the influential new Russia Today network. At the same time, he continued to develop and produce his own independent documentary projects.
Ever since 2009, Aleksei has been at the helm of his own production company, High Latitudes, Ltd., which continues to focus on the indigenous peoples of the North.
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