Paul Watson is simultaneously one of the most controversial and respected figures in the environmental movement.
A founding member of Greenpeace, the Canadian activist quickly left the organization because he objected to their non-violent and bureaucratic policies.
He now dedicates much of his time to hunting down and frequently crashing into Japanese whaling vessels to stop their nefarious practices, regularly risking his life to save animals in danger. Making a documentary about Paul Watson was no easy task and required equal fearlessness from the filmmaker simply to accompany him on his missions. But that’s exactly what director Trish Dolman did for Eco-Pirate: The Paul Watson Story.
“I don’t know why I never feared for my life, but I definitely had those conversations with some of my crew,” the director told Metro. It took Dolman eight years to make the documentary due to the physical demands of the shoot and controversy surrounding Watson.
“I think that amount of time was an advantage,” admitted Dolman.
“I struggled with how to make a film about him. It took me a long time to figure out my point of view and how not to just make this an obvious hero or villain piece so that we could reach more than just Paul’s followers. One of the reasons why I wanted to make the film was that everyone I talked to had a very strong response to Paul. They either loved or hated him. There was no in between.”
The final film is a balanced portrayal that acknowledges the huge impact Watson made and continues to make on the environmental movement without ignoring his flaws.
“Environmental activists exist to remind us of things that we might not see and create social change,” explained Dolman. “Paul’s feisty and he pisses people off, but I think that’s his role in society and there are very few people doing what he is doing. So I respect that.”