BUNNY IN THE CITY: Last of the Right Whales Georgia premiere at the Lucas Theatre

Aidan Gomez, Andres Labiaga, Zeke Bumgamer, Coby Kiefert

When I got a call from Joanne Jackson to attend the Georgia Premiere of “The Last of the Right Whales,” I jumped at the chance to see this award-winning feature documentary at the magnificent Lucas Theatre on July 12.

While talking with the HitPlay Productions executive producer, I learn that the Canada-based crew wants to make films that make a difference. Joanne shares, “Filmed along the migratory path of the North Atlantic right whale from Florida to Canada, this film gives an up close and personal look at these amazing creatures.”

Sharing Joanne’s view is Tybee Island Marine Science Center Operations Director Beth Palmer. The Eatonton native tells me, “Having a powerful film show how local and how important they are to us is a rare accomplishment. There are less than 350 right whales left in the entire world, which is crazy for an animal that is the size of a school bus. They inhabit our coast lines during the winter to have their babies and we are one of the only known calving grounds for this species.”

Another fabulous female sharing in Joanne and Beth’s hope that this film grows awareness and love for right whales is the queen of all news, Susan Catron. The managing editor of “The Current” tells me that their environmental journalist, Mary Landers, is tonight’s moderator for the Q&A following the film. While waiting for Mary to arrive, we dive into a convo on how much we love the tranquility of our north Georgia visits before I snap a pic of her with Beth Palmer and volunteer Patty Kaczka. 

Easing over to the concession stand team, I convince Aiden Gomez, Andres Labiaga, Zeke Bumgamer and Coby Kiefert to hug up for a group pic. Sneaking away with some fresh popcorn, I head into the marble floored lobby to meet One Hundred Miles advocates Jennifer Hilburn and Stephanie Chewning. Dedicated to preserving Georgia’s cultural and natural communities, the ladies are gracious in posing for a photo. 

Arriving next is local photographer Chris McShane. Amped to head to north Georgia on a hiking trip, Chris graciously jumps on the other side of the camera to smile with Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce’s PR manager Tanvi Chauhan. Her heritage is of Indian descent, her accent sounds British, and after 10 minutes of trying to guess where she is from, we learn that she is from Zimbabwe!

Next up is my favorite southside female in blue! Savannah Police Department’s Captain Michelle Halford knows the photo drill and poses with retired International Paper engineer David Charbonneau. In his second year volunteering with TIMSC, David tells me, “My dad was a wildlife biologist. He instilled an interest in nature at a young age.”

Standing near us is Tybee Island Marine Science Foundation President Cathy J. Sakas. “We are in the process of creating an exhibit featuring North Atlantic right whales and we are hoping it debuts by the end of the year. 4o years ago I ran across the carcass of a North Athletic right whale calf. That day changed my path and perspective,” shares the animal educator.

Finally able to sit with Lucas Theatre executive director Christina Routhier, I chat with the Savannah native about her 22-year role in the iconic theatre, built in 1921. “Working with students from elementary to college and having signature events are two of my favorite things about working in an architectural masterpiece,” shares the avid traveler.

After praising the Savannah College of Art & Design on maintaining the former vaudeville theatre, I head into the Spanish Baroque style auditorium to learn how the stars had to align in order to capture the incredible images in “Last of the Right Whales.” From obtaining federal permits to using aerial photography to capture behaviors that happen on the surface of the ocean, we got to see moms nursing, skim feeding and social groups.

What a night! A standing ovation for everyone committed to saving a species still struggling to recover from centuries of hunting. From climate change, collisions with ships and fishing gear, my hope is that Joanne Jackson and this documentary help save these magnificent creatures from extinction. Take a bow y’all! 

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