Wild Africa, now playing at the Telus Theater, takes you on a breathtaking journey across the continent
Skim over snow-capped mountains, dive over plunging waterfalls, and explore fortresses of coral reefs.
With Wild Africa, now playing at the Telus Theater at the Montreal Science Centre, explore the continent over the course of a year through the ebb and flow of water.
Distributed by the BBC, the 40-minute documentary is directed by Mike Slee and Patrick Morris and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. The film focuses on water, how it connects the continent and how it has shaped life across Africa. It offers a look into different African ecosystems, from misty rainforests to bone-dry deserts and how they interact with their abundant or scarce water supply. It explores what part water plays in different regions and how animals have adapted to survive the harsh conditions of their particular habitat.
The documentary takes place over two seasons—the dry and the wet—while offering insight into how the local wildlife’s relationship to water changes according to how available a resource it is at a given time. Elephants, for example, will dig wells with their trunks in order to get to the underground water at the height of the dry season.
The epic cinematography pulls you into the landscape, making you feel part of the story as you soar over jagged mountains and plunge down deep ravines. You are there, swimming alongside bright red fish, diving off Victoria Falls into roiling water and skimming over the winding sand dunes.
In order to introduce the relationship that water entertains with each landscape that is presented, the documentary treats animals as characters, using the wildlife’s approach to water as a way of articulating each landscape and the role that water plays within it. In the Namib Desert, for instance, water is not commonly found, so in order to get their required amount animals must draw it from the ingestion of the food they eat—such as bugs and reptiles—rather than drink from a water source. The film uses this focus to travel to different areas, studying how different kinds of animals go about their lives in their quest for survival.
The film leaves the audience wanting more. This is typically a good indicator of the quality of the work in question, however in this case something seemed to be missing. With so much covered in such a short time, the overload of information didn’t allow the film to go in depth with any one subject. Instead it skimmed over many topics, which left a good impression but didn’t allow for any concrete understanding of a particular subject.
For the nature-lover or documentary-aficionado, this BBC film is remarkable. The IMAX experience just isn’t something that can be reproduced by watching a similar documentary at home. It also takes a refreshing look at the seasonal cycle in Africa by casting water as the central character and building a narrative arc around the interactions animals and landscapes have with it. The struggle for survival is examined through a different lens than the typical predator-prey trope, offering a different approach to an ecosystem that has already been extensively covered in nature documentaries.
You can see Wild Africa at the Montreal Science Centre for $12. Purchase tickets at montrealsciencecentre.com/imax-film/wild-Africa.