About Huntwatch

The hottest controversy in Canada rages on frozen ice. Historically sealing was considered a respectable job, even heroic, until people witnessed it in their living rooms for the first time – graphic images too sensitive for most.

Appalled by what he saw, a charismatic young activist named Brian Davies set out on a personal crusade to save the seals. Little did he know the battle would last the rest of his life. Davies started a movement to end the hunt. He raised money to bring media out to document the hunt on the remote ice floes.

Huntwatch BTS - Ryan Reynolds Narration Recording Session from Huntwatch on Vimeo.

His images and stories led to international outrage. The pressure reached a head in the 1980s when the European Parliament banned the import of baby white seal products – effectively shutting down the hunt.

But the war is not over. Both sides are fighting dirty. Canadian politicians have revived the hunt. This time, they are in search of slightly older seals just starting to shed their fluffy white fur. At about two weeks old, they are now legal.

Now, a young, tough activist has taken the torch. Sheryl Fink is leading the huntwatch and fighting to completely end the commercial seal hunt - once and for all. At 78 years old, Brian Davies hopes that he will live to see a victory for his seals, while the sealing industry is doing everything it can to keep the hunt alive.

 

About the Production

“HUNTWATCH” is a film that took 45 years to finish. It first began in 1969 with one man, a camera and his undying desire to end the hunt for baby seals in Atlantic Canada. His passion resulted in miles of footage that collected year after year documenting the hunt.

“HUNTWATCH” was reinvigorated in the hearts and minds of the producers in 2009 when they worked at the international headquarters of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Massachusetts. Kerry Branon and Richard Moos discovered the film and video goldmine in the basement. As soon as they watched the first film they instantly knew that they needed to tell this once in a lifetime story.

“Sealsong was the first documentary we found and it was amazing,” said “Huntwatch Producer Kerry Branon. “There were courageous characters flying helicopters, diving under the ice and fighting the political system – all to save the baby seals. And this was just the tip of the iceberg – we had 45 years of similar imagery sitting in our archive.”

This first obstacle was to slog through a mountain of footage - 3,000 tapes and film reels in every format known to man. But it was worth it. Hidden gems began to surface from the footage. There were stories of death threats, spying tactics, knife attacks, destroyed helicopters, extreme weather, frigid water and getting forced out of Canada.

A few months later, the team loaded up a minivan and crossed the border into the cold Canadian winter for the maiden voyage of the film’s production. They followed the Olympic torch and seal hunt protestors from Montreal to Ottawa, met with politicians with opposing viewpoints in the Senate and House of Commons and interviewed experts in Guelph. They captured many of the core interviews that shaped the film during those first ten days, but then they were torn away to focus on other projects.

Production picked back up in 2012 and in January 2013, Director Brant Backlund came on-board to finish the film. A year later, David Kennedy joined the team as editor. They split off into teams of two capturing the political firestorm in Europe and the sealing communities of Newfoundland. The main goal was to tell an honest story, capturing both pro and anti-sealing voices, but the team was stonewalled by sealers. So they improvised and dug into the archive finding interviews to express the sealer perspective.

“We didn’t want to make a one-sided industrial film that preached to the choir,” said “Huntwatch” Director Brant Backlund. “This is a very complicated issue with no easy answer. We went out of our way to try to bring both sides of the seal hunt debate to life.”

 

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