HAULOUT is a near-perfect short documentary film that combines stunning polar visuals, a unique perspective, humor, and heart in a brisk, 25-minute package. The movie follows an Arctic marine biologist studying the “haulout” of walruses in remote Siberia.
Visually, HAULOUT feels closer to Wes Anderson than BBC’s PLANET EARTH – definitely not what I expected as the film started. Watching this movie feels like you’re in the shoes of the documentary’s subject, a lone scientist toughing out the encroaching Arctic winter. HAULOUT manages to be informative, emotional, and, most of all, timely – with barely any words spoken.
This brings me to the only negative about the movie – the last couple of minutes have more text on the screen than I would’ve liked. It seems like creators Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev were trying to avoid detracting from the stylishness of the movie…which worked, but the technique risks putting style over substance. Yet, compared to another nature short nominated for the Oscars, THE ELEPHANT WHISPERERS, HAULOUT has much more to say.
HAULOUT is available to stream on The New Yorker’s YouTube Channel. I watched it in theaters as part of ShortsTV’s presentation of the Academy Award Nominated Documentary Shorts.