Sonic Sea

  • Palace Chauvel 249 Oxford Street Paddington

Dir. Michelle Dougherty, Daniel Hinerfeld | USA | 2016 | 56mins

In the murky expanses of the oceans where darkness abounds, many sea mammals are dependent on sound for survival. By emitting ‘songs’ of a specific frequency, these animals communicate within their own species enabling them to migrate, mate and hunt while they defend themselves and their packs from clandestine predators. Since the dawn of time, oceans have sustained this harmonic but delicate web of sound. Recently however, this song has been drowned out by the racket of industry.

Sonic Sea follows Kenneth C. Balcomb III, a former U.S. Navy officer turned whale expert who makes a discovery that changes the way we have come to understand the human impact on the ocean. Underwater noises generated by the seismic exploration of oil mining, freight ships and the effects of military sonar, measure off the charts and are observed to be having distressing effects on the ocean’s marine life. The film is equally propitious, tracking scientists worldwide who are working towards reducing this harmful noise; re-affirming that the ocean’s destiny is one inextricably linked with our own.

The film is narrated with verve by Rachel McAdams and also features riveting interviews with ocean protection icons including Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau; experts on ocean noise such as Chris Clark of Cornell, Leila Hatch of NOAA, Dr. Paul Spong founder of OrcaLab, and musician/activist Sting, who riffs on the importance of sound from a musical perspective. Written by Mark Monroe who continues on from his brilliant works The Cove and Racing Extinction, Sonic Sea features dazzling underwater cinematography and a haunting score by Grammy-winning composer Heitor Pereira, reflective of underwater, ambient soundscapes.

Sonic Sea’s incredible cinematography gets viewers up close and personal with the animals…it will arouse care and love for the world living unseen, beneath our oceans.
— Kelsey Leavitt, BYU Media Centre

Panel discussion: Our sonic seas - science and solutions


Dr Thomas Schröder is South Pole Group’s Director Marketing and Communications, heading the global Marketing team from the company’s Sydney office. South Pole Group is the world’s biggest developer of emission reductions and renewable energy projects. Thomas holds a PhD in Economy from the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. An avid surfer, he moved to Australia last year.


Justin Field is a Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council. Justin holds the marine and fisheries portfolio for the Greens in NSW. He is a surfer, diver and fisher and is passionate about protecting our marine life, keeping plastic and other pollution out of our ocean, and ensuring the health of our fisheries. Before entering Parliament in 2016, Justin was the marine campaigner at the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.


Jools Farrell isan offshore crew member Sea Shepherd, Global / Global Ships, Medical Officer / Quartermaster,  Sea Shepherd Sydney Chapter's Co-ordinator Training and Education


Gary Truong is a PhD candidate from UNSW focusing on blue whale acoustics. 


Dr Karen Firestone is a scientist who worked in conservation for nearly two decades both in government and academia. In 2000, she attained her PhD in conservation genetics, working carnivorous marsupials throughout Australia and New Guinea. She moved to the philanthropy realm in 2012 and brought her conservation expertise to bear working with WWF-Australia on a number of programs, including protections for the Great Barrier Reef. Karen is involved in a wide range of social justice and environmental causes.


Winner: Jury Award – Wild & Scenic Film Festival 2016

Winner: John De Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award - Wild & Scenic Film Festival 2016

Winner: Environmental Award – San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival 2016

Winner: Stan Waterman Award – Princeton Environmental Film Festival 2016

October 22
Australian Shorts
October 22