A cinematic and thoughtful look at Iceland’s complex relationship to whaling, Breach, directed by Santa Barbara born Jonny Zwick, details the island nation’s struggle to reconcile its still productive and time-honored whale hunting industry with a growing international and local desire to protect whales.
How did you get turned on to the topic of whale hunting and the situation in Iceland?
My uncle is a marine biologist and has dedicated his life to the well-being of dolphins. I was speaking with him about my desire to photograph Iceland’s other-worldly landscapes when he told me about the commercial whale hunting taking place there. I did some research and was shocked at what I found.
After working on a film like this, have your own views on the topic changed at all?
It’s really easy to see a topic such as whale hunting on paper and immediately decide what your stance is based off of your beliefs and personal experiences. My overall viewpoint is the same as when I left but my reasoning for why I think it is wrong has changed. Seeing it in person and getting to know the men behind the harpoons definitely changed my perspective, but not how I feel about it.
What do you hope to accomplish in telling this story?
Beyond promoting awareness, I want to start a public discussion. If people become educated about the issue they will ask the right questions and demand answers to those questions.
In your words, what is the rift in Iceland really about? Is it generational? A matter of potentially losing a “way of life”? Or something else?
At first glance one would suspect that the primary motive involved in this practice is monetary gain. In reality it comes down to a small number of powerful individuals and their national sentiments toward the utilization of “Iceland’s” natural resources. They are a young country in terms of gaining independence and feel as though it is their national right to hunt whales.
Have you tried whale meat?
I had quite a few opportunities to try the meat, but I always refused out of my support for whale watching over whale hunting. Often times those who appreciate the whales in Iceland don’t make the connection that they are supporting the whale hunting industry by eating the meat.
What surprised you most while working on this film? What was the biggest challenge?
Access to the Minke whalers is what surprised me the most. I never imagined they would let me board their ship and witness a hunt. The most challenging aspect was shooting and directing at the same time. But being alone is what garnered me the necessary access.