For the last thirty years, the environmental group GreenPeace has sent a ship to the Antarctic Ocean, hoping to thwart a Japanese whaling fleet that each year slaughters nearly a thousand whales to be sold as meat. Filmmaker Morgan Matthews joined the crew aboard the GreenPeace ship Esperanza on a recent voyage to document their efforts over a two-month period.
Despite being banned from commercial whaling, the Japanese fleet-consisting of a mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, sighting vessels and catcher boats-continues to kill whales each year under the guise of "scientific research." BATTLESHIP ANTARCTICA sets the stage for the conflict between the whaling fleet and the environmental group through archival footage of previous encounters, including graphic scenes of the killing of whales, and an orientation session on board for GreenPeace crew members.
After weeks at sea, dodging icebergs and unable to find the Japanese factory ship, the Esperanza has a troublesome encounter with the Robert Hunter, a vessel operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, another anti-whaling group which flies a skull-and-crossbones flag and whose violent methods, including the ramming of whaling ships, are disowned by GreenPeace. After refusing communication with the Sea Shepherd activists, the GreenPeace ship receives a radioed insult from the rival group.
When the Esperanza finally does locate its true adversary, it is under the most unexpected circumstances, which demand a series of emotionally wrenching decisions on the part of the GreenPeace activists, in which their humanitarian beliefs contend with their environmental principles, providing a dramatic and completely surprising twist to the expedition.
"An exquisitely shot documentary that, surprisingly given the subject matter, was often as funny as it was enlightening."—Gerard O'Donovan, The Daily Telegraph
"It's been said of this director that he always lets people's humanity shine through, no matter how off-beam or out of order their own lives are. He certainly did a good number on Greenpeace."—Matt Baylis, Daily Express
"The film-maker Morgan Matthews is on a roll at the moment... It is not just a film about environmental activism, but also an intimate and extremely funny portrait of a bunch of eccentrics, willing to spend months at sea for their cause, regardless of the havoc."—David Chater, The Times