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The Independent Critic

Maxim Chakilev
Maxim Arbugaev, Evgenia Arbugaeva
25 Mins.

 "Haulout" Shortlisted for 2023 Academy Awards 
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It's unsurprising that the remarkable Haulout has been named to the 2023 Academy Award shortlist, a deserved recognition for a beautifully constructed film that vividly "follows a man waiting in his hut in the desolate expanse of the Russian Arctic. He is holding out in order to observe a natural event that occurs here, every year, but ocean warming is taking its toll." It's nearly impossible to not feel grim while watching Haulout, a film that immerses us in the tragic impact of climate change on the animals in the arctic with a strong, impossible to forget focus on walruses. 

Maxim Chakilev, the only human subject in the film, has gathered inside a ramshackle hut on a remote coast of the SIberian arctic. The conditions make clear that this is no pleasant experience even on the best of days. What we witness is far from the best of days. Co-directors Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva wisely know they need do nothing extraneous to amplify the inherent drama of this story. The visuals say nearly everything there is to say and watching it unfold is sobering and more than a little devastating. 

If you are unaware what the term "haulout" means, it will quickly become obvious. It's an overwhelming experience, an enveloping one that taps into all the senses. It's utterly brilliant watching Maxim amidst it all, a devastated calm within the storm as he begins to realize the fullness of what surrounds him. The filmmakers have captured both the universal and deeply intimate aspects of this haulout, amplifying both the awesome and the isolation. If you are not at some point devastated here, I'd check for signs of a pulse. 

Haulout has picked up multiple fest prizes and now sits one step closer to the 2023 Oscars. While I'm working my way through this year's shortlisted films, it's difficult to imagine that Haulout isn't one of the year's favorites. 

Extraordinary in imagery and messaging, Haulout is without question one of 2022's best documentary shorts. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic