Loneliness is universal. As humans, we may feel its grip in those last moments before sleep, in a long drive across open prairie, in the dim glow of a bar crowded with strangers, or, most recently, in the quarantined confines of our homes. And when we do, sometimes we reach out. It might be by sending a digital howl to a friend or family member from our phones in a bid for companionship. It might be a community howl, like the one at 8 p.m. each night that fills the Missoula valley as a show of support for first responders and healthcare workers. For a grey wolf in British Columbia, that howl is innate, echoing across the dark waters of an archipelago, a vocal manifestation of the effects of prolonged solitude.
That grey wolf’s name is Takaya, and for seven years he’s lived alone on a small island off the coast of Victoria, with only the constant presence of conservation photographer Cheryl Alexander for company. This is the story that directors Andre Barro, Gaby Bastyra and Martin Williams set out to tell in Takaya: Lone Wolf, using Alexander’s quest for answers about Takaya to unravel the wolf’s many mysteries. Alexander becomes the viewer’s guide to all things wolf, interviewing experts from Idaho and Yellowstone National Park to better understand Takaya’s origins, his distinctive behaviors, and why he’s chosen to remain in isolation for so long.
On March 24, 2020, just a few weeks before this festival screening, Takaya was shot and killed by a hunter. This documentary is a story that anticipates Takaya’s fate, though it doesn’t know it yet. Its exploration of isolation is what ultimately makes Takaya so relatable. The life he’s chosen is not an easy one, and his presence becomes a point of contention and fear in the nearby Victoria community. Yet even as he refuses to leave his island, Takaya’s howls from the rocky shore seem to indicate a desire for something more. When Alexander finally consults a researcher specializing in wolf vocalization, the answer she gets confirms her deepest suspicions, and transforms Takaya: Lone Wolf into an unexpectedly and undeniably human tale.
Screening during a special online featured event on April 23, accessible to Virtual Passholders.