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Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs” – film-maker and documentarian Werner Herzog.

On Tuesday, September 6, three powerful new films chronicling EIA’s recent undercover investigations into timber smuggling, the ivory trade and whaling will make their world debut in the USA on Nat Geo Wild.

Paul Redman and Clare Perry filming in a Japanese fish market (c) EIA

Broadcast under the collective banner of Crimes Against Nature, Blood Ivory depicts the brutal horror of elephant poaching in Kenya and black market trade in the marketplaces of Hong Kong and China; Making a Killing exposes Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales to package and sell for consumption in Japan; and Chainsaw Massacre uncovers the Vietnamese army’s involvement in the widespread smuggling of timber from neighbouring Laos.

Each film follows seasoned EIA investigators in the field as they methodically piece together the clues of wildlife and forest crime and follow evidence trails leading to corrupt officialdom, organised criminal syndicates and grasping businessmen. Along the way, viewers will share the setbacks and successes in films rich with imagery both startling and haunting.

What they won’t see, and possibly won’t suspect, is the long year of preparations and often physically and emotionally demanding work behind the scenes to get three one-hour films in the can.

The project effectively began in 2009, following EIA’s tiger team in China and Nepal for a pilot film eventually broadcast early last year on Nat Geo Wild as Eco Crime Investigators – Inside the Tiger Trade.

The broadcast, first in the USA and subsequently worldwide (and it’s still in heavy rotation), was such a success that further programmes were commissioned.

On location in Kenya with Mary Rice and Dave Currey (c) EIA

Initial meetings with the London-based production company hired by Nat Geo to make the films focused on the likely scope of the three investigations, the probable shooting times and budget requirements for each, and a loose schedule around which investigators would have to fit all their usual campaign work and commitments.

It was in October 2010, when filming was concluded in Iceland and underway in Vietnam, that I was brought onboard as Project Co-ordinator; you could draw up a job description for the role which might run to several sides of A4, or you could just as accurately say my primary function was to help ease the process along as required.

Both EIA and the production company shared the same goal – to make the best programmes possible; naturally, both came at it with different considerations to the fore. The nature of conducting investigations in the field is that you never know what’s going to turn up and where it might lead; the nature of film-making is that you have to satisfy those commissioning the venture that they’re going to end up with a solid narrative arc and a substantial conclusion, preferably before shooting begins.

From the word ‘go’, EIA was adamant that its investigators would not serve as props, nor would they be mouthpieces for scripted lines which might in any way reflect poorly or inaccurately on the organisation, its methodology or its invaluable work. At the same time, we accepted that the film-makers needed to distil often-complex issues in a way that was accurate and wouldn’t leave viewers scratching their collective brows and reaching for the remote control. Looking at the finished products (and I believe I must have done so a score of times for each!), I think it’s fair to say this was achieved remarkably well.

In the field was where problems could most easily arise as directors fretted that they wouldn’t get the key shots they needed within the timeframe allowed, or when they were debriefing an investigator following an emotionally exhausting undercover filming session and needed the same kind of projected energy on take seven as was given the first time around. But our investigators are nothing if not troopers – and on many occasions during this project they were fixers and guides too – and the passion they have for their various campaigns all but radiates from the screen.

Julian Newman interviewed during filming in Laos (c) EIA

When location filming concluded by late March, it remained to fine-tune the narratives, film interviews with the key campaigners and nail down the voice-over and visual inserts such as animated maps..

With security the key consideration for EIA, this was also the time for me to go through each film with a fine toothcomb and ensure that the identity of our undercover Chinese investigator was protected at all times; you’d be amazed at how often somebody’s features can be fleetingly reflected in background mirrors and table tops.

All that remains now is for you to watch the films, and help EIA by spreading the word for others to do the same.

* After the US premiere on Tuesday, the three programmes are due to be broadcast on Nat Geo Wild in other territories, including the UK, later this year – watch our website and blog for details as we learn them.

Paul Newman, Press OfficerPaul Newman

Press Officer

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Copyright EIA

Clare Perry makes up one half of our cetaceans team, together with Jenny Lonsdale, co-founder of EIA

Since the June annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) rejected the proposal to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland IWC endorsed commercial whaling catch limits, we have been catching up on all the other work that the cetacean campaign does outside the IWC meeting.

There is a tremendous amount of work to do in the coming months and in the lead up to next year’s annual meeting if we are to ensure that the conservation agenda moves forward and aspirations for resumed commercial whaling are kept in abeyance.

Copyright EIA

The Japanese Delegation at the IWC earlier this year

World attention is usually focused on Japan’s commercial whaling, carried out under the guise of so called scientific research. However, whaling in the North Atlantic this summer boasts some shocking statistics:

Norway has killed about 464 minke whales; Iceland has already killed hundreds of fin and minke whales, while the Faroe Islands killed more than 750 pilot whales.

Catching fin whales – the second largest animal on the planet – has resulted in thousands of tonnes of whale meat being stockpiled in Iceland because there is no market. Japan doesn’t seem keen to add Icelandic fin whale to its own stockpile which reached 5,000 tonnes this August. So it seems these magnificent animals have been killed for nothing but politics.

Meanwhile the Icelandic Government is engaged in negotiations on its possible accession to the EU. It has been given a strong message that whaling is not permitted in the EU but this is a significant issue in the negotiations and we are following developments carefully.

Copyright EIA

EIA's first campaign focused on exposing the atrocious whaling that was taking place in the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory, some few 100kms of mainland Scotland. This is an image from our archive.

The hunts in the Faroe Islands are particularly shocking because the Islanders were advised 2 years ago by their own world-leading medical expert that they should not eat any pilot whale meat or blubber due to the high levels of pollutants. This frightening warning is being ignored by the Faroese Government and people.

We are gathering information on the ground to put pressure on these three Governments to end the cruel and unnecessary slaughter.

At the same time, our work continues to develop the IWC’s vital work to address other environmental threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). From 21st – 24th September, we will attend the IWC’s workshop on ship strikes. Both endangered and more plentiful populations of whales are vulnerable to collisions with vessels and the IWC is working hard to quantify the problem and work with scientists and industry to find mitigating solutions. We will be bringing information on the problem of collisions between whales and sailing boats which can be catastrophic for whales, sailors and their boats – it should be an interesting meeting.

Jenny Lonsdale and Clare Perry – EIA Cetaceans TeamCopyright EIA

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