The documentary Peace with Seals deals is made up of two stories,. The first story is about a seal named Gaston who, according to the director of the Prague Zoo, became ‘the most famous animal on earth’ after he managed to reach Germany during a devastating flood. At the height of his fame, Gaston was adopted by the former Prime Minister Gross. After Gaston's death, the Prague Zoo erected a statue in his memory. The second story took place 50 years earlier and tells the life story of a seal named Ulysses. The seal was caught in Sardinia by a Milan photojournalist who, in front of the cameras, tossed the animal into the famous Di Trevi fountain. Patellani, a friend of Federico Fellini's and a specialist on film stars, was fined for his action. The reason, however, was not the killing of a baby seal but the pollution of water in the fountain. Fellini took inspiration from the story for La Dolce Vita. In La Dolce Vita Fellini coined the term ‘paparazzi’ in reference to photojournalists, such as Patellani. Fellini is said to have created the word because it suggested to him ‘a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging.’
The two distinctive stories bring out the stark question: what historical changes have altered our relationship with animals? Today there are urban nature reserves, aquariums instead of oceans, and seal hunting can be booked with a travel agent. In the time of Homer, seals were the most widespread inhabitant of one of Europe's best-known seas, the Mediterranean. However, seals have become one of the most endangered mammals in Europe. The film raises questions around how seals, and wild animals more broadly, will be encountered in the future? Furthermore how animals are domesticated, and how does this domestication reflect the human condition?
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