The Loneliest Whale
Film Event

The Loneliest Whale

with cinematographer Alan Jacobsen
October 14, 2021

This event occurred as part of the 21/22 Hop Film Event season. This is an archived view.

Cinematographer Alan Jacobsen presents this invigorating search for an elusive creature of the deep. Discussion follows.

21/22 Hop Film Event

THE LONELIEST WHALE | Official Trailer | Bleecker Street

The Loneliest Whale is a cinematic quest to find the "52 Hertz Whale," which scientists believe has spent its entire life in solitude calling out at a frequency that is different from any other whale. 

52 was discovered in 1989 by the US Navy—at first, he was only a sound, one so odd that it was believed to come from a submarine. But marine scientist William A. Watkins knew what he was hearing, and until his death in 2004, he tracked 52's comings and goings arduously. Meanwhile, 52 has captured the popular imagination, earning the nickname that gives the film its title: Because 52's sound is unique, attached to this one lone denizen of the ocean, it's believed that he's calling for friends who possibly don't understand him—or for another whale of his specific type who simply doesn't exist. And so this lonely seafaring fellow—the subject of newspaper articles, songs, paintings and probably more than one tattoo—has become a metaphor for our own need to connect and communicate with others.

As the film embarks on this engrossing journey, audiences will explore what this whale's lonely plight can teach us—not just about our changing relationship to the oceans, but to each other. D: Joshua Zeman, US, 2021, 1h36m

Discussion follows with cinematographer Alan Jacobsen and marine scientist Dr. Ingrid Biedron '03. Programmed in partnership with the Film & Media Studies Department.

In partnership with Science on Screen®

Ingrid Biedron, PhD, is a marine biologist and conservationist. She has worked to protect marine ecosystems and wildlife as a scientist at Oceana, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and NOAA Fisheries' Office of Protected Resources. She also served as an adjunct professor at Boston University and Georgetown University teaching marine science and animal behavior with a focus on marine mammals. Ingrid currently leads communications and public affairs at NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ingrid completed her BA at Dartmouth College ('03) and her MS and PhD at Cornell University. She is originally from Chelsea, Michigan. 

Director of photography Alan Jacobsen photographs narrative and documentary projects with an authentic, natural eye and sensitive curiosity. His camerawork is masterful, intuitive and intimate, capturing the sensory story in each powerful frame.

Most recently, he wrapped The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52, a feature length documentary about the loneliest whale in the world, with director Joshua Zeman. He also lensed Worn Stories for Netflix, a docuseries of fascinating and quirky stories of real people and the stories behind their most meaningful pieces of clothing. 

Jacobsen recently received professional acclaim for his work with Outlier, an online college education platform.

Previously, Jacobsen shot Empires of New York, a documentary series set in the grit and glory of 1980s New York chronicling the rise of Ivan Boesky, Donald Trump, Leona Helmsley, Rudy Giuliani and John Gotti. He also photographed Murder Mountain, a true-crime documentary that tells the riveting tale of the forbidding world of outlaws in Humboldt County, where marijuana farms—both legal and illegal—drive the local economy. The six-part Netflix series exposes the wild and lawless, yet strong and vulnerable stories of the people who live there and follows a series of murders at the center of the community.

Additionally, Jacobsen's work appears in Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mice and Men, from director Sacha Jenkins, which had its premiere in the Episodic section of Sundance in 2019. The doc follows the artist's rise to fame as they escape poverty and violence in their neighborhoods through music. The entire Wu-Tang Clan stars.

Jacobsen earned kudos in 2018 for associate producing and shooting director Yance Ford's Strong Island (2017), which was nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary and won the 2018 Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. The film also took home: the Sundance Special Jury Prize; the Gotham Award for best Documentary; THREE Cinema Eye Awards;  and has received nominations for a raft of other accolades, including Best Documentary Film at the Berlin International Film Festival and the 2018 Peabody Award. 

Other films lensed by Jacobsen have earned film festival honors: two-time Oscar-nominated director Marshall Curry's Racing Dreams and Point and Shoot, both of which received the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival; Toe to Toe with director Emily Abt, which won him the Best Cinematography Award nomination at Sundance Film Festival; and The Trials of Darryl Hunt, nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury, Independent Spirit, International Documentary Association and Emmy awards.
Jacobsen is based in New York.

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