Orcas are a matriarchal society and for decades Granny has been the grand dame of orcas
everywhere. If you ever dreamed of freeing Willy, I hope Granny’s story will inspire you to
protect our southern resident orcas.
Q & A WITH DIRECTOR MARK LEIREN-YOUNG
How did you decide to make a film about Granny?
I was writing the story of Moby Doll – the first ever killer whale in captivity – and as I was
researching his family and came across the story of Granny – the oldest member of Moby’s pod.
I felt sharing Granny’s story was the ideal way to share the story of this amazing culture.
How did your recent bestseller, The Killer Whale Who Changed The World, influence you in
telling Granny’s story?
When I talk to audiences or the media about Moby Doll, I almost always talk about Granny to
give people a sense of why I’m in awe of these creatures.
One of the most incredible things about the orcas is that they are one of only two species on
the planet (besides humans) where females live beyond their reproductive years. And before
you ask – because everyone does – yes, that include apes and elephants.
The only two species on the planet besides ours that have a menopause are orcas and pilot
whales. The evolutionary theory is known as “the grandmother hypothesis” which posits that
the reason these matriarchs live so long is to pass on their wisdom, language and culture to
their families. Think about that for just a moment and you have to take the next step and start
thinking… if the orcas world is built around what we call “history” exactly why don’t these
creatures have the same type of rights that we do?
After a career as a journalist, author, screenwriter and playwright, how did you get into
I urged other people to tell Moby Doll’s story for over twenty years. I felt someone had to put it
on film. Finally, I realized that somebody had to be me and my producer Tony Wosk hooked me
up with some great cinematographers to make that happen. While I was working on the Moby
Doll documentary, I came across Granny’s story and BravoFactual was generous enough to give
me the opportunity to introduce the world to The Hundred Year Old Whale.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the film?
I’m hoping they’ll fall in love with Granny – and her pod – and my hope is that Granny’s legacy
will be to inspire people to do what they can to keep this unique culture alive and thriving.
Is this a local story to British Columbians or does Granny’s story translate to places that aren’t
lucky enough to have a local orca pod?
Unfortunately, right at the beginning of 2017 as we were heading into post-production on this
film we got the news that Granny was presumed dead at 105 years old. Her death made news
around the world.