The film ‘From Kurils with Love’ – much of it shot from above.

Precisely a year ago, a group of like-minded adventurers and I took few weeks to leisurely tour Russia’s far-eastern Kuril Islands on a ship. Click on the link for plenty of pics and words about the expedition, but today I’m not writing about that, I’m writing about something else.

See, the group of like-minded adventurers I was with included a group of curious American documentary makers. Among them: the famous landscape photographer Chris Burkard, the legendary traveler-photographer-climber Renan Ozturk, the documentary filmmaker and conservationist Taylor Rees, their super-professional photography-and-film crew, plus ecologist-researchers.

And they all boarded our small ship for a lengthy investigation of the unique ecosystem of the Kuril archipelago, at the same time bringing attention to the remote region’s ecological problems.

And now, as a result of the eco-expedition a documentary has been released – From Kurils with Love. The ‘star’ of the short film is Vladimir Burkanov, Kurils conservationist and leading expert-biologist of the Kamchatka branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who for more than 30 years has been studying the region’s sea mammals.

Under Vladimir’s skillful direction we were taken on a ride around a region like no other on the planet – the string of Kuril isles with their unique climate and flora-and-fauna, and generally completely wild and untouched-by-man extraordinarily picturesque corners of the Pacific coast. We also topped up our archive with rare pics-and-vids taken just a few weeks after the volcanic eruption on the Kuril island of Raikoke (ours was the first film crew to visit). And to take those pics-and-vids, a full 20 pro-cameras and almost as many drones were used! Yes – that’s a lot of kit! Alas, the fancy kit was used to visually capture sad scenes: the 2019 eruption fairly devastated the island’s ecosystem – including vastly reducing its population of sea lions.

Details of how the documentary was shot can be found on the popular-science resource Tomorrow Unlocked.

We knew from the outset that with such a strong team of creatives the film was bound to be a hit. And ‘hit’ is the right word: it’s already been nominated 18 (!) times at various international film festivals. And it’s already won (!) three prizes: Best Documentary Short at the New York International Film Awards; Best Short Documentary at the New York Movie Awards; and ‘Honorable Mention – Short Documentary’ at the Florence Film Awards. Way to go guys and girls!

And just yesterday, the film became available online! Yeh!

But wait – there’s more: two follow-ups coming soon. There’ll be the mini-film The Rise of the Drones about all the cool kit used during the expedition (featuring exclusive, never-before-seen drone footage of the Kurils). And there’ll be One Part Purpose: a short video about why we decided to get involved in all this, who needs to be saved as a matter of urgency, and also why I love this region.

I hope that From Kurils with Love will raise awareness of the ecological problems the Kurils are facing, and also of the global gofundme-based fundraiser – the Kuril Islands Research & Conservation Initiative – to help preserve the beautiful though very fragile ecosystem of the region.

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