The film's star, Jawi Mayor, communes with sea life in ''Journey to the South Pacific''

By Pamela Gocobachi
Updated January 30, 2014 at 05:00 AM EST

Journey to the South Pacific, a new IMAX nature documentary in theaters now, stars a 13-year-old named Jawi Mayor who has never seen a movie — let alone starred in one that plays on a 50-foot screen. “When we got permission from Jawi’s family, we explained that it would play around the world,” says producer Shaun MacGillivray (To the Arctic 3D), who made the film with his father, Greg. “But they don’t really get it.”

Shot on and around West Papua, a remote island about 2,000 miles east of Jakarta, Indonesia, the 40-minute film (rated G and narrated by Cate Blanchett) follows Jawi on a three-month boat journey. The filmmakers spent roughly a year searching for their leading lad. “Once we saw Jawi,” says Shaun, “we knew we had our star.” It’s easy to see why: He’s boy-band cute and makes up songs on the fly with his ukulele. In one of the film’s most intense scenes, Jawi swims alongside three whale sharks, each the size of a school bus. “He just became a fish with them,” recalls Greg MacGillivray.

Jawi has still not seen the movie — he’s only watched a couple of hours of TV in his life — but the filmmakers are trying to get him to a theater in Jakarta. Says Shaun, “He would absolutely love it!”