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A Life Among Whales

Weaving together natural history and biography, A LIFE AMONG WHALES is a fascinating exploration into the life and work of whale biologist and activist Roger Payne. Payne's electrifying discovery in the early 1970s that whales sing 'songs' helped ignite the modern day environmental movement.

A charismatic and passionate individual, Payne's pioneering spirit has consistently advanced the boundaries of science and activism over the last four decades.

A LIFE AMONG WHALES traces Payne's scientific research beginning with his early work in Patagonia, where for two years, he, his wife and four young children lived in tents on a remote bay so that they could have unhindered access for the study of Southern Right Whales.

It explores Payne's tireless and passionate fight to ban whaling -- a ban which today, 20 years after an international moratorium was imposed is threatened -- and follows him to his present day study of ocean pollution and his work with The Ocean Alliance, a non-profit organization and global leader in whale research and conservation which he founded.

With beautiful and haunting images, Payne challenges us to become the greatest generation of all. Saving earth's largest creatures would open the door to humanity's recognition of our true role in the biosphere.

NOTE: This film contains some powerful images which may disturb some people.

'This is a splendid film. It both soothes and shocks, as it introduces the viewer to the world's largest mammal and to the senseless carnage of whale hunting. Its message though is one of hope. Hope that there is still time to give back the ocean to this majestic creature. But we must begin now.' Henry Lee, Director, Environment and Natural Resources Program, Harvard University

'Exquisite visuals... Divided into segments, which makes this production very classroom friendly, Payne's passionate narration is balanced by that of children who describe their knowledge of and enthusiasm for whales... This is a meaningful addition for all environmental collections and can be utilized by classes across the curriculum to study environmental issues and stewardship and to confront a global query, 'Can a single individual change the world?'' School Library Journal

'This is a beautiful film and a devastating film. It captures in words and images the majesty of the world's whales while chronicling the life and work of biologist Dr. Roger Payne. It is a cause for hope, as it shows how Payne's work in the 1960s and 1970s led to greater public awareness of the plight of whales and, eventually, an international moratorium on whaling in the 1980s. But the film is also a cause for concern and a call to action, revealing that the international consensus against whaling is beginning to unravel. All told, it's a thoughtful, humbling, and full-hearted film that makes it clear the destiny of whale populations must matter to us all.' Jury Citation, Vermont International Film Festival

'A loving profile of the charismatic activist... Payne's story is a remarkable one that will force even the most cynical and detached viewer to reevaluate humanity's role in Earth's stewardship and our relationship with the planet's other inhabitants. Boasting gorgeous cinematography, this festival-award winner is definitely recommended.' Video Librarian

'[A Life Among Whales] is well constructed, weaving together interviews, spectacular underwater footage of whales, clips of historical whaling operations, and animation... The story is both poignant and inspiring, the cinematography is top-notch and it is easy to see why this film has won a host of awards. Highly recommended for all audiences.' Barbara Butler, Educational Media Reviews Online

'Stunning, graceful images...interesting commentary...a stimulus for a potentially rich discussion of topics ranging from ecology, to lifestyle, to abuses of power, not to mention whales.' Science, Books and Films

'A fantastic primer to the world of whales as it focuses on the majestic creatures themselves, the horrors of the whaling industry that hunt them, and the work of Dr. Roger Payne...It's an excellent starting point for anyone interested in the subjects.' DVD Talk


Main credits

Haney, William M. (film producer)
Haney, William M. (film director)
Haney, William M. (screenwriter)
Grunebaum, Eric (film producer)
Payne, Roger (interviewee)

Other credits

Edited by Peter Rhodes; camera, Christopher Fadale and Ken Willinger.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Animal Behavior/Communication
Animal Rights
Endangered Species
Environmental Ethics
International Studies
Life Science
Marine Biology
Natural History
Oceans and Coasts


Roger Payne, natural history, biography, whale songs, environmental movement, scientific research, Patagonia, Southern Right Whales, whaling ban, international moratorium, The Ocean Alliance, stewardship, co-existence; "A Life Among Whales"; Bullfrog Films