By Nina Wu
A documentary film about Hawaiian monk seals is in the works, but only has four more days to go to reach its $30,000 fundraising goal on indiegogo.
The film is the subject of today's Green Leaf column.
Robin and Andrew Eitelberg of Monterey, Calif. discovered the plight of the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal a little over two years ago. Since last fall, they've been in the isles, dedicated to their goal of making a documentary film to help save the species.
They hope that the film, "One by One: The Struggle to Save the Hawaiian Monk Seal," will help educate the public about Hawaiian monk seals.
“When you talk to people about monk seal outside of Hawaii, no one’s heard of them, so we’re starting with a completely blank slate," said Andrew. "We’re trying to get people aware of the species and what’s happening here.”
Making the Hawaiian monk seal, Hawaii's official state mammal, more visible and prominent, is one of their goals. Raising awareness of how hooked monk seals should be reported immediately is another.
The film will highlight the work of numerous conservation groups like the Monk Seal Foundation and The Marine Mammal Center, the passion of the scientists and volunteers who are working together to save the species, as well as the volunteers who are dedicated to protecting the seals as they haul ashore to get some rest in Hawaii.
The Eitelbergs, graduates from film studies at the University of California at Berkeley, believe documentaries have the power to tell a story and reach a worldwide audience. Both were impressed by "Blackfish."
They've been filming in the isles since last fall with the help of NOAA's Monk Seal Research Program. Challenges include capturing footage of seals that are spread out over thousands of miles, sometimes on remote isles like Papahanaumokuakea. They've respected the 150-foot distance from the seals, and are also careful to be quiet while shadowing NOAA scientists so as not to disturb the seals.
There have been many inspiring moments, according to Robin, including when a vet was able to successfully extricate a hook from monk seal pup Luana's mouth in June. A collective sigh of relief came from the team that rescued her, along with high-fives all around.
Funding will help the pair recoup out-of-pocket expenses already invested into travel and equipment, as well as editing, graphics and film festival submission fees. Robin says editing will take place in the fall, with a screening hopefully, by next spring.
They hope to offer screenings and discussions here as well as on the mainland.
With more funding and time, Andrew says it would be interesting to explore the unique challenges of monk seal populations for each isle.
"We want to have children, and grandchildren one day, and I am fearful my grandchildren will not get to see these monk seals and share the experience of knowing what they have to offer to all of us," said Andrew. "We have to all come together right now...build this movement to save a species and we hope this documentary can be a spark."