Watch Telluride the world premiere of a new wildlife documentary called wild cat This has an unmistakable allure for animal lovers as well as admirers of amazing real life stories. Amazon will be showing the movie this fall. The South American ocelot at the center of the story of animal rescue and liberation will appeal to audiences, but the human characters in this saga are at least as appealing.
Harry Turner had joined the British Army in Afghanistan when he was just 18, and the atrocities he witnessed there shocked him and led to suicidal behaviour. When he travels to the Peruvian Amazon, he finds a new target. While there, he met a woman named Samantha Zwicker who was involved in a project to save wild animals threatened by poachers. The two eventually forged a personal and professional relationship centered on a young ocelot cub who might not have survived without their help.
An exciting journey in the wilderness.
They began filming their encounters with the ocelot and eventually teamed up with professional filmmakers Melissa Leech and Trevor Beck Frost to chronicle the arduous steps involved in raising a wild cat and training it to return to the woods and survive alone. The film strikes a satisfying balance between wildlife photography and the more intimate and often disturbing human drama.
The filmmakers are remarkably close to the animals – not only the ocelots but also the birds and reptiles that a kitten must learn to hunt in order to live in the wild. One encounter with a dangerous caiman (a cousin of a South American crocodile) living in the Amazon is one of the most amazing survival battles ever caught on camera.
But the dangers the two characters face go beyond the dangers of the natural world. Harry’s wounds are deep and permanent. He has injured himself in the past, and moments of depression have led him to more serious suicidal behaviour. The relationship with Samantha is partially healed, but it is not enough to face the deep wounds caused by his devastating wartime experiences.
We gradually learn that Samantha has a painful personal history, especially her relationship with her abusive father. Harry’s family history is less problematic, as we learn during a particularly poignant sequence when his parents and younger brother visit him in Peru and express their love and support. His shock is certainly heightened by his time in the military, and without detail on this point, this film highlights the danger of putting these young men at risk.
The complicated relationship between Harry and Samantha is handled in a way that is too superficial to be entirely satisfactory. No doubt the filmmakers didn’t want to be accused of intrusion into their privacy, but we still had some unanswered questions about their bond, which overlaps between the personal and the professional. Eventually they both moved on to other relationships.
But there’s no arguing with the film’s gorgeous animal shots and the powerful emotion that accompanies the inevitable moment when they have to separate from the animal they raised. Moviegoers with long memories will see an association with the great success of the 1960s, Their mothers gave birth to them free, which focused on a couple raising a lion cub and eventually recognizing that their only victory would come in being separated from the animal and returning it to its natural habitat. This was, of course, a purely Hollywood production, but anyone who saw it as a kid will likely never forget its impact. wild cat It is a less complex and cruel production, but it generates some of the same emotional power.
In a Q&A after one of Telluride’s shows, Zwicker and Turner reported seeing glimpses of an ocelot (which they named Keanu) free-roaming in the woods. Perhaps most importantly, Turner displayed a newfound calm and maturity in his reflective comments. This just goes to show that healing may be (almost) complete for both humans and animals.
Venue: Telluride Film Festival
Directors: Melissa Leech, Trevor Beck Frost
Producers: Melissa Leech, Trevor Beckfrost, Alyssa Nahmias, Joshua Altman
Executive Producers: Misha Green, Daniel Steinman, Dan Friedkin, Trevor Groth, Adriana Banta, Sarah Hong, Stephen J. Hall, Michael J. Kelly, Alison J.
Director of Photography: Trevor Beckfrost, Melissa Leech, Harry Turner
Editors: Melissa Leech, Joshua Altman, David Ziff, Jane Gould
Music: Patrick Johnson
1 hour 46 minutes