Despite sharing a home on this big blue marble we call Earth with countless creatures, human intervention and expansions on the landscape has irreparably diminished the number of critters we can call our neighbours. Back in 2002, Biologist E. O. Wilson estimated that within 100 years, at least one-half of all species currently on Earth will be extinct. The growing global awareness of our impact on the environment, and the corresponding denial from anybody in big business with a vested interest in the wholesale destruction of ecosystems, has seen a number of stunning documentaries, including An Inconvenient Truth and the more recent Oceans. Rarely have they been as beautifully filmed as this.
Narrated by the ubiquitous soothing voice of Morgan Freeman (RED), Born to Be Wild 3D tells the story of the orphaned elephants and orangutans in Kenya and the rainforests of Borneo respectively. We also meet the remarkable people who care for them. Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick has over half a century experience working in the Tsavo National Park, which she co-founded with her late husband. Caring for a number of injured and orphaned wildlife, it is elephants in particular that she shares an affinity with. Similarly, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas helps nurse orangutans back to health and into the wild, carefully maintaining their wild instincts that are necessary for their future survival.
Nature documentaries have come a long way since the 1958 Disney film Wild Wilderness in which the studio propagated the myth of lemming suicide by actually leading lemmings to leap off a cliff using a rotating platform! Our increased familiarity with the animals of the world has largely helped them gain a sympathetic ear and numerous wildlife organisations have rising to support endangered species, but the problems of mass extinction persist today. Born to Be Wild 3D, following in the footsteps of the seminal Born Free (and to a lesser extent its sequel, Living Free) studies the effect of humankind’s encroachment on the animal kingdom, but it does so without judgment or malice. It is a love letter to these majestic animals, always mindful of the fact that they are still wild creatures, no matter how much we anthropomorphise them. When it comes to the world of elephants, for example, some mysteries may always remain. As the young pachyderms are released into the wild, other members of the herd – as if by mental telepathy – begin to appear to greet them from great distances, adding weight to the old adage about elephants never forgetting. Freeman’s measured narration neither intrudes nor adds unnecessary emotional weight to what we are seeing on-screen: the imagery does that for us.
We have been spoiled over the last few years, thanks largely to the David Attenborough’s of the world and the magnificent high-definition visions of BBC and the National Geographic documentaries that grace our small screens regularly. Yet rarely has anything been seen that is simply as breathtaking as the 3D vistas captured in Born to Be Wild 3D. Elephants at play are captured in a level of intimacy never before seen, and as an orangutan arches towards the camera for the first time, you may just want to reach out and grab his hand. Coupled with the beautiful photography, from season documentary cinematographer David Douglas, are the stunning technological achievements. With 12 of the scenes shot on the mammoth 4K digital IMAX cameras, this stunning technological achievement is the first feature of its kind. Perhaps the only complaint is that at 45 minutes, it really doesn’t go on quite long enough! Groundbreaking, funny and touching, Born to Be Wild 3D exposes the cruel realities of human impact on nature while simultaneously showing us how beautiful it can be.