LOS ANGELES - While James Cameron’s ecological sci-fi fable “Avatar: The Way of Water” is vying for best picture at the Oscars, his fellow nominees in the documentary categories have been busy chronicling very real threats to our own planet. From the smoggy skies of New Delhi to the melting sea ice of Siberia, “All That Breathes” and “Haulout” each use complex, local stories to shine a global spotlight on man’s desecration of nature here on Earth. Brother-and-sister filmmakers Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva are the first indigenous Yakut filmmakers to be nominated for an Oscar with “Haulout,” which follows a scientist in Siberia charting the disastrous impact of the climate crisis on walrus populations.
The short film, which has little dialogue, begins with stunning shots and roaring audio of the stark, windswept Arctic coastline, as marine biologist Maxim Chakilev waits patiently by his hut for migrating walruses to arrive. Suddenly 100,000 of the rotund mammals appear outside his hut, squashed together on the beach. It is an initially mesmerizing spectacle, but one that we later learn is the result of the loss of sea ice -- and the dangerous overcrowding has deadly effects. “We just hope that we can join the chorus of scientists and artists from all over the world and contribute to this conversation on the dire state of our planet,” said Arbugaeva.
The siblings told AFP that their Oscar nomination in the documentary short film category has been the cause for huge celebration in their remote homeland. And they are even planning to bring Chakilev -- their grizzled, solitary marine biologist -- to the glamorous awards gala in Los Angeles on March 12. But the spotlight on their ancestral region is vital to conveying how climate crisis is upending life for humans and animals, in wildly different ways, all across the globe.