10 September 2020 – ‘From Kurils With Love’ launched today on Tomorrow Unlocked to take online audiences on an expedition to one of the least visited places on the planet: the Kuril Islands. The documentary follows a team of well-known adventurers as they learn about data and technology’s role in conservation. The online premiere supports a fundraising initiative aimed at further data collection in the Kuril Islands to help enable long-term conservation plans, and to protect the beautiful yet fragile ecosystem. The film centers around the critical work of Vladimir Burkanov – a Russian marine scientist and protector of the Kurils, who has studied marine mammals in the region for over 30 years.
The volcanic Kuril Islands is one of the most remote and inaccessible places in the world. The island chain is located between Russia and Japan and several of the islands are still unprotected. In July 2019, Eugene Kaspersky participated in an expedition to help bring awareness to this magical place. Preparations for the expedition started in 2017 when, together with well-known expedition filmmaker Renan Ozturk, the producer Povel Torudd started assembling an expedition team of environmentalists, filmmakers and photographers. The team, including director and co-producer Taylor Rees, photographers Chris Burkard, Ted Hesser and Ryan Hill, and science communicators Jeff Kerby and Rishi Sugla, set sail on a 12-day expedition across the Kuril Islands aboard Eugene Kaspersky’s chartered boat. The team went with the high hopes of filming an exciting, impactful, eco-adventure story. At the last minute, a stranger to the group, Marine Biologist Dr. Vladimir Burkanov, asked if he could hitch a ride. They didn’t know it at the time, but this chance encounter would have a profound impact, not only on the expedition, but the film’s evolving narrative.
With over 20 high-end cameras and almost as many drones to capture the cinematic footage, the final project presents the previously little-known story of a unique and endangered ecosystem, and the incredible dedication of a man who has devoted his life to protect it. The film is now available to view on Tomorrow Unlocked – an online magazine for technology culture created by Kaspersky.
From Kurils With Love has a strong technology focus, exploring the use of time-lapse cameras, and various monitoring equipment that enables scientists to gauge the health of Steller Sea Lion and Northern Fur Seal populations – in decline by an estimated 80% over the past few decades. Under Burkanov’s guidance, the expedition members learnt about the ecosystem of the Kuril Islands, its climate, and its role as one of the last wild places in the entire Pacific Rim. As a result, the crew were inspired to reshape their efforts in helping to bring awareness to, and protect the area. From Kurils With Love also captures unique footage of the consequences of the 2019 Raykoke volcano eruption that significantly affected the Steller Sea Lion population on the island. The expedition crew was the first media team to reach the island after its massive eruption a few weeks earlier, wiping out most visible forms of life.
“From the moment I became involved in this project we knew we wanted to make it a purpose-driven adventure story with the potential for serious educational impact. In addition to using world-class cinematic footage to engage viewers, this also meant we needed a credible science angle. I could never have dreamt that we would land on an opportunity to follow Dr. Vladimir Burkanov, one of the Earth’s true conservation superheroes, on such a personal journey through the Kurils; a journey that ultimately made him the main character and story in the ‘From Kurils With Love’ documentary,” said Taylor Rees, the documentary director.
“We brought a circus of camera gear to be able to capture the beauty of the Kuril Islands and it was eye-opening to see how similar technology played such an important role in the scientific work that Dr. Burkanov does to monitor mammal populations in the region,” added Renan Ozturk, the director of photography and co-director.
Viewers will see the outcome of the two-week, round-the-clock expedition, resulting in the main documentary and two supporting behind the scenes (BTS) short films. The main From Kurils With Love documentary presents a human-centric science story about the mythical Kuril Islands, showcasing the unique and fragile beauty of the chain and the critical ecological problems the region faces. The second BTS short film, ‘The Rise of the Drones’, is dedicated to the role of technology and data in educating people about such a unique but hard-to-reach place as the Kuril Islands. The third BTS short film –‘One Part Purpose’ explains why Kaspersky decided to support the expedition, and how it evolved into a purpose project. It features commentary from Eugene Kaspersky about his own passion for the region and the future protection of it.
“Since I first heard of the Kuril Islands as a young boy I always wanted to go there. The expedition documented in ‘From Kurils With Love’ was my second visit and it didn’t disappoint. We were incredibly lucky with the weather this time and it was a huge weight off our shoulders knowing that we were there to shoot a documentary. I’m incredibly excited to now be able to share a glimpse of the Kurils, that I know and love, with the rest of the world through this documentary,” commented Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky.
The main documentary has already been listed as an ‘Official Selection’ at 18 leading international documentary festivals – including Heartland Film Festival, Mountain Film, Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, Washington DC Environmental Film Festival and Environmental Film Festival Yale. It has already won three awards so far.
The online premiere of the documentary also supports the fundraising initiative organized by Dr. Burkanov and members of the expedition team, aimed at collecting robust environmental data that will help to inform sound policy and scientific projections of the future. These projects can guide the region towards a conservation plan to keep these ecosystems healthy for generations. All funds will go to the non-profit that’s been set up specifically for this purpose: The Kuril Islands Research & Conservation Initiative (KIRCI).
“I’ve dedicated a big part of my life to trying to understand the Kuril Islands ecosystem, with the goal to help protect it for future generations. Although the first step is to use technology and reliable data to understand it, the second step is about awareness. To make people see and feel something, is to make people care about something. My hope is that this documentary will open up the world’s eyes to this magical place and I hope the serendipitous nature of how I got involved in the project, will be carried forward to involve much bigger audiences online. I hope they will want to get behind protecting the future of the Kurils through our non-profit organization as much as I do,” said Dr. Vladimir Burkanov.
“The ‘From Kurils With Love’ project has been a true storytelling collaboration between Kaspersky and arguably, some of the world’s leading expedition filmmakers and landscape photographers. We wanted to show the world that we’re a brand that cares about the future of the natural world as much as the online world, especially as they evolve and increasingly connect. So, when we identified an opportunity to bring awareness to one of Earth’s least known, most spectacular, and unfortunately most fragile eco-systems, we went for it. Eugene Kaspersky’s early, very personal support helped immensely in getting the project off the ground and the passion and phenomenal goodwill from all the other expedition members ultimately helped bring it to life. I think we’re all proud of how it’s turned out, especially with the added public fundraising elements that have been built into the experience,” comments Povel Torudd, Head of Kaspersky’s Brand Activation Studio and producer of the documentary.