On Our Radar: Chimpanzee
Anybody who has exchanged more than a sentence or two with me recently has surely gotten an earful of excitement regarding the upcoming release of DisneyNature’s latest natural world doc, Chimpanzee, which follows a 3-year-old chimp named Oscar (well, named by the filmmakers) as he is orphaned in the jungle and eventually adopted and raised by a grown male chimp, which is apparently some rare shit in the jungle. Watch the trailer HERE and try not to cry. In DisneyNature’s consistently exceptional output (including 2007’s Earth, 2009’s Oceans, and 2011’s African Cats) the filmmakers don’t pull any emotional punches to keep from upsetting the kids–the life or death, kill or be killed, eat or be eaten realities of the wild are very much in the forefront of these harrowing adventures, but they very rarely veer into animal torture porn territory. Unlike say, National Geographic Society Films, which regularly produces phenomenal natural history docs as well, but can be a bit more ruthless about showing the audience the worst possible image they would ever hope to see…and then continue showing it until the viewer is left drained and emotionally exhausted. There’s a particular scene in NGSF’s The Last Lions that is the saddest, most heartbreaking depiction of animal suffering I’ve ever seen–and the scene’s final “money shot” is lingered on just a bit too much. (I cannot go into specifics without making Kimberly cry FOREVER.) It is brutally honest. Well, brutal, anyway. NG is also known for creating narratives out of a random collection of footage, like in their also excellent, harrowing 2007 Arctic Tale, where you are introduced to walrus and polar bear families, following them over the first year of raising new babies. (YES THEY ARE BABIES, PEOPLE.) It isn’t till the end credits that the filmmakers admit that, yes, this was actually just a collection of several different animals, and the footage was just masterfully shaped into a story. But, it’s SO well done, and its super ecofriendly message is SO wonderfully pushy, that it’s difficult for me to fault them for some creative editing.
So this is a must-see, particularly if you need the type of good, cleansing cry that only an orphaned animal with big glassy eyes can bring. Tickets sold in the first week (April 20 through 26) benefit the Jane Goodall Institute, which is one of our favorite institutes. (Goodall is also the subject of an excellent 2010 documentary, Jane’s Journey, which features some captivating stories about raising a small child in Gombe around a bunch of sexually mature chimpanzees. Spoiler alert: The child doesn’t like it!)