January 27, 2012

Native POV in Big Miracle

Drew Barrymore's 'Big Miracle' movie is a home run for greens

The story about the 1988 grey whales rescue is perfect for Valentine's Day.

By Starre Vartan
I'm going to warn you right now that this review is a total rave, as I have nothing but positive things to write about Drew Barrymore's new movie, Big Miracle.

While I'm an unabashed and longtime fan of Ms. Barrymore, I liked the film for plenty of reasons other than her always-radiant presence. And while I'm not usually a fan of kid's movies, this is one that I enjoyed thoroughly (it's a movie most grown-ups would like with or without a child in tow, so head to a later night screening if you want to avoid the wee ones' probable oohs, ahhs and sobs).
And:But the most remarkable thing about the story, and the one that makes it both educational for kids and a movie adults will enjoy, is how some very divergent human interests work together for the whales. From an oil-drilling Good Old Alaska Boy (played to the hilt by Danson), who 'volunteers' an ice-breaking barge (mostly to bolster his reputation), to one changemaking official in the Reagan administration, to the National Guard, and the local people of the small town of Barrow, Alaska, everyone helps out. The most fascinating, and difficult-to-navigate POV was that of the native Inupiat people, who are best known for their fight to be allowed to hunt whales. Writers get the kudos here, as the audience sees how the tribe makes the decision to help the rescue effort, instead of eating the whales, a deft piece of storytelling about native people's choices and challenges, and one we almost never see in Hollywood movies.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Drew Barrymore movie without romance (and a great soundtrack; there's one of those too). And so where a sea of single people starts the film, two couples come together by the time the credits roll. A very relatable native boy and a focus on the kids, like me, who watched the drama unfold on the nightly news keep it interesting for the younger set.
Big Miracle: One Alaskan's review

By Michelle SparckFrom a Native’s perspective, I was curious to see the scene Kotzebue resident John Chase spoke about shooting with Drew Barrymore. In that moment, cultures would clash over the value of the whales. I tensed when it came up, since I knew Barrymore’s Greenpeace character was going to have to be, shall we say, a little insulting and insensitive to the whaling culture. And she was. John’s character, the whaling captain Roy, was rightfully testy but delivered an impassioned rationalization for hunting, along with a lesson that there is a relationship between the Inuit and the whales that can’t be taught or relatable in glossy environmental pamphlets.

John Pingayak, pulling off a thoughtful and respectful leader, showed throughout the film that whalers consider the spirit and well-being of the marine mammals even when outsiders just see the ‘take’ in consumption.
And:When Drew Barrymore came out following our test screening, she seemed tiny and sweet. Her hair was the same as in the movie but she wasn’t as au natural, she looked like the Cover Girl she is.

I jumped up at the opportunity to be the first to say something, and that was to make sure and thank her for her efforts to do as much business and filming in Alaska as the project called for. She said she felt it was important for authenticity and that she was glad she did it. If only Dermot Mulroney’s upcoming film with Liam Neeson, “The Grey,” did the same.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Big Miracle Trailer and Inupiat Extra in Everybody Loves Whales.

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