Leatherback sea turtles, sharks as long as a school bus, and fish that are masters of camouflage are just a few of the exotic sea creatures taking center stage in the new IMAX film, Journey to the South Pacific. At the heart of the documentary is its star, a 13-year-old boy named Jawi, who serves as our guide to discovering what lies beneath the ocean waters that surround the Indonesian island of West Papua.
The exclusive EW.com clip below gives you a taste of the exotic creatures Jawi discovers as he explores the diverse waters that surround the island he calls home:
Narrated by Cate Blanchett, Journey to the South Pacific follows a summer of Jawi’s life aboard a boat called the Kalabia, an educational vessel that visits the islands surrounding West Papua and teaches children about the importance of preserving the oceanic creatures with whom they share their home. Though the boat invites children on board for the day to learn about the local marine life, Jawi, who had gone through the program a few times before, was able to sail on the boat for the entire summer along with his uncle, who is one of the educators aboard the Kalabia.
Filmmakers Shaun and Greg MacGillivray and their crew spent a year in pre-production looking for fantastic stories and just the right character to tell what Shaun hopes will be “the next great ocean film.” When they learned of the Kalabia and met Jawi, they knew they had found the story they wanted to show audiences across the world.
“[Jawi’s] just so charismatic and he’s got a great smile,” says Shaun of their young star. “It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t speak English because he really comes across well on screen– you understand what he’s feeling in the film.”
Greg says it was Jawi’s leadership that really drew him to the young boy in the first place. “There were around 20 kids in his age range and you could just tell that he was the leader– he was always the one that was suggesting they play this or that game,” recalls Greg. “And he could sing! He would play this ukelele he would carry around with him and he’d just get all the kids singing– it was wonderful.”
Despite having a wonderful experience with Jawi, both filmmakers say that filming on West Papua didn’t come without a few hitches. For one, the island so remote, the technology readily available to the islanders consists of one tiny generator that doesn’t always work and a single cell phone for the entire village that gets just enough reception for you to access your voice mail — if you’re lucky.
“Getting the equipment there was a struggle– we’re 65 hours away in L.A. so you have to take a number of various airplane trips and then wait in airports and then take two boats to get to the right place, so it’s a lot of time and money to get the people and the equipment there.” says Greg.
Shaun on the other hand says the most difficult part of the entire process was getting the wildlife to cooperate.
“The place is amazing and beautiful once you get underwater but then again, you still have to wait for that marine wildlife engagement,” explains Shaun. “We did get the shots that we wanted, but that ability to be patient and to know when to shoot — especially when you’re shooting with real film in IMAX, can be the biggest challenge.”
Journey to the South Pacific is currently playing in select theaters in IMAX and IMAX 3D.