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Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist - Movie Review - 2011

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating


To Stop The Slaughter At Sea

Environmental activist and filmmaker Peter Brown, who has been a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for three decades, chronicles life aboard a succession of the organization's environmental ships -- Sea Shepherd, Sea Shepherd II, Farley Mowat and Steve Irwin, among others -- as they've plied the Earth's oceans in search of illegal whaling and fishing vessels.

Helming the ships is Captain Paul Watson, one of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's founders. He's an environmental activist, and self-proclaimed eco-pirate who has dedicated his life to stopping the slaughter of cetaceans and other sea life.

The basic conservation program that's followed by Watson, who was given the boot by Greenpeace for being too radical, is to disable fishing vessels when and wherever they can be found on the high seas or, for that matter in ports around the globe.

When Watson and crew spot a fishing ship in an area that's been declared a protected zone -- such as Antarctica, for one example -- they chase and apprehend it, ordering its captain to cease the slaughter and leave the area. If the ship doesn't obey, Watson rams it, causing sufficient damage to prevent the ship from continuing its hunt and illegal slaughter of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and fish. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew also cuts fishing nets, and uses them to disable the rudders of fishing vessels, and frees fish that have been trapped in holding tanks.

The Big Sea-Going Adventure

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society may be on a serious mission, but live aboard the vessels is one big and freewheeling adventure -- and a dangerous one, at that. To date, the organization claims to have sunk ten whaling vessels but, in the process, the crew has been fired upon, the ships have been rammed back by ships they're attempting to disable and shut down, and otherwise threatened by national navies, coast guards and other authorities from Antarctica to the Arctic, from South Georgia Island to the Faroes Islands. The crew has sailed Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships across all of the oceans on Earth, and called at ports worldwide. And, almost everywhere they go, they're considered to be terrorists and criminals. But, that's just fine with them. In fact, it's a source of professional pride.

Throughout the years, the organization has been chastised by governments and international NGOs, sued by fishing companies. The fleet has been damaged, vessels seized. Yet the Sea Sherpherd Conservation Society's crew muscles on.

The Filmmaker's Perspective

The fact that filmmaker Peter Brown has been a crew member for so long gives him access to a lot of the organization's archival footage -- much of which was shot by Brown, himself -- which he uses to present key moments in the ships' voyages, and to share his take on shipboard ambiance during both the quiet, boring stretches when there are no whalers or fishing vessels in sight, and during moments of tremendous drama.

What really stands out is the character of the crew. Everyone on board has tremendous enthusiasm for Sea Shepherd Society's mission, and a genuine commitment to it. They also have a sense of humor. For example, they fly the Jolly Roger, traditionally the flag of outlaw pirates, with a revision that replaces the swashbuckler's swords with Neptune's trident and a shepherd's hook. It's sort of a pirate's pun.

The crew's fearless -- and sometimes imperious -- chief, the notorious Captain Paul Watson, has a huge personality and, nicely profiled, he is a big presence in this documentary.

The Filmmaker's Perspective

Of course, since Peter Brown is a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society insider, he really has no objectivity about his subject. And, because he makes no attempt to hide his relationship to the organization and crew, there doesn't appear to be a hidden agenda for the film or a conflict of interest. Brown's film is a puff piece, plain and simple. You can accept Brown's bias and enjoy this adventure on the high seas, or you can fault the film for being too one-sided. Either way, Confessions of An Eco-Terrorist does reel with adventure and is an entertaining introduction to the sea going exploits of one of the world's most controversial conservation organizations that takes a very aggressive approach to protecting our oceans and sea life from devastating exploitation.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Confessions of An Eco-Terrorist
  • Director: Peter Brown
  • Release Date: April 22, 2012 (limited, Earth Day release)
  • Running Time: 90 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Locations: Antarctica, and oceans arond the globe.
  • Language: English
  • Production Country: USA
  • Distribution Company: Snag Films
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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