The documentary movie, The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari, puts Academy Award-winning Rory Kennedy (Ethel, Last Days In Vietnam) once again in the 2022 Hamptons International Film Festival spotlight. Her film takes a close examination of the 2019 White Island volcanic (Whaakari) eruption in New Zealand in which 22 lives were lost. Ms. Kennedy said the film will be out on Netflix sometime in December.
The film was presented in Sag Harbor Cinema where the sophisticated sound system and bright screen really brought this film to life. If you get a chance, definitely watch this film on Netflix.
Rory Kennedy and her crew of filmmakers literally bring you into the mouth of the Volcano on White Island in New Zealand. There with the tourists who were unfortunately on that island right at the volcano when it erupted Dec 9th 2019. Sadly 22 were killed. This was caused by the extreme proximity of the two tour groups who were on the island. Some literally standing on the mouth of the crater. Once again through the magic of color film footage the viewer in the audience feels like he is standing next to the tourists there on White Island.
However, the beauty of New Zealand is also featured in this film. The expert camera work leans into the beauty of this place where so few live or visit.
Yet it is the survivors telling their story, along with just breathtaking footage and pure sound effects. Then there is the drama of how they were rescued by a group of helicopter pilots, and the boat crews who put their lives at risk to rescue what the New Zealand authorities considered unreachable. This movie is compellingly intriguing. The audience moaned, sighed, laughed and even at some moments teared up in unison. This is a sign of good moviemaking.
THE VOLCANO: RESCUE FROM WHAAKARI is directed by Rory Kennedy and produced by Sara Berstein, Justin Wilkes. Dallas Brennan Rexer, Mark Bailey, and Rory Kennedy. The executive producers consist of Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Jennifer Davisson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Philip Watson. The brilliant writing is the work of Mark Bailey and Dallas Brennan Rexer.
It is also a love story of a couple on their honeymoon who somehow, against all odds, clung together through the power of love. Although scarred for life their beautiful love shines through the lens onto the screenand then into your heart.
Then there is the loss of a brother. Watching a native mother share her grief at losing her son humanizes the loss. Perhaps most touching was the young teen from Australia, who witnesses his sister, mom and dad’s slow dying agony before somehow rising to will himself back to the rescue area. He to this day is still having surgeries to endure.
The film places you safely at the foot of the power of this tragedy. You can’t help but watch in amazement as the audience did in the Sag Harbor cinema during its world premiere last Saturday.
The audience, obviously in a trance, took a minute to applaud and then stood and cheered. Rory Kennedy, whose documentary on her mother Ethel caught the HIFF audience a few years back. Ms. Kennedy, the youngest child of Robert F. Kennedy, addressed the audience, introducing her co-film workers on this project. She was beaming with pride. It is a success.
When viewing this documentary, be prepared to see burns of the survivors that demonstrate the intense steam heat that pierced through their clothing.
The touching words of the grieving survivors are heartbreaking, juxtaposed with the words and stories of the heroic helicopter pilots. Incredible salient points about risk, liability, limits and safety are addressed, too.
However, make no mistake about it, the mystery of the volcano Whaakari is the star of this movie. Its intense plumes, indescribable sulfur ridges, volcanic rock and ash mesmerize the viewer with every frame of the film it engrosses. This film will win awards.