This article is published in number 17 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until April 27, 2021
Years ago while on vacation in Hawaii, Sigourney Weaver was approached by thirty bottlenose dolphins who started swimming near where she was snorkeling. He wrote to his friend James Cameron. The answer still remembers her: “He told me that the ocean had given me a present.” Looking forward to seeing them together in Avatar 2 – and then in the following Avatars up to 5 – the two friends met for a project that Cameron especially cares a lot about, so much so that he is the executive producer. It is about a four-part documentary title The secrets of the whales, which will be available for streaming on Disney + on April 22, on the occasion of the Earth Day.
Shot over the course of three years in twenty-four locations including the Antarctic, Norway and the Azores, and thanks to the skill of the fotografo di National Geographic Brian Skerry, the series is an intimate tale of the world of whales, their communication skills, their intricate social structures, their lives and even their feelings. “The most interesting thing is what happens to the viewer when he is confronted with similar images”, tells via Zoom the actress, who in the original version is the narrator of the story.
She and Cameron have known each other since the 1980s, when the director was hired to direct and rewrite Aliens – Final Showdown, the first sequel to Alien. They have never parted since. Cameron brought a passion for the ocean and diving into his films, first with the thriller Abyss in 1989 and then in 1995 with Titanic (he himself made twelve dives to explore the wrecks of the ship and in 2012 became the first solitary visitor to reach the bottom of the “challenger deep”, the lowest point on the planet, in the Mariana Trench). Even with all the secrecy of the case, di Avatar 2 we know that there is a lot of water, which Weaver confirms. “Yes, a lot, a lot of water,” he says of the most anticipated film of the last ten years which, due to the pandemic, we will probably not see on screens before 2022. “Working with Jim made me feel much more comfortable with the Ocean. He was also kind enough to invite my husband and me to swim with the whales for another future project he is working on.. I sure know Jim would get me out of trouble: I have two others Avatar to shoot with him. I’m not so sure about my husband, ”she adds, underlining how this project made her enjoyable also because she was able to do it dry. However, this has not prevented her from appreciating how extraordinary there is in the life of these animals.
«Each story about each whale species opens a window into their very intimate lives. The amazing thing is that you as a spectator start thinking and seeing as one of them, you feel like one of the family because you understand their priorities in terms of hunting, food, communication, music and even culture. In one episode, for example, let’s see how the humpback mother has a special sound that she uses to call only her young. Later in the program, when the baby is away from the mother by mistake and there is an orca threatening him, the humpback whale uses that sound to call him back, that sound that is meant only for him. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? All mothers would like a similar ability. I sure would have wanted it. Not only, being a fundamentally matriarchal society, whales could teach us a lot, especially in this post-pandemic era. To put others before ourselves, to take care of others. And also to never lose sight of priorities. I hope that viewers seeing these images feel respect for their nature and culture. And I don’t use the word culture at random: they are extremely civilized species, they have customs that they pass down to younger generations and some humpback whales in Norway have even learned to fish together with men, they have adapted to working with a human partner».
Respect is a word he often repeats to describe his experience. For the protagonists, the whales, but also for those who study them and for science in general, a discipline as never before exalted but also questioned by the deniers of various species. “I believe in facts, in what I see, and I believe we all have to gain by believing in scientific evidence. We cannot deny what we see, even if it seems impossible to us. In some moments, The secrets of the whales it is so extraordinary that it almost seems impossible, yet it is all in front of us, the fruit of three years’ work. I hope that entire families are watching this series, that children will be fascinated by it as if in front of a window on a parallel world, and that they always carry whales in their hearts. it is an act of love towards nature and towards ourselves ».
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Foto di cover: Getty Images