Sunday, 24 April 2011

African Cats

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Dir: Alastair Fothergill (Earth) & Keith Scholey - feature film directorial debut
Documentary
Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson
USA, 2011

Seen: April 22, 2011

Reason to see: I love cats. Big, small, wild, domestic... doesn't matter. I love 'em all.

I'm a big cat lover. I love cats, especially big cats so deciding to see African Cats which follows two cat families was a very easy decision. I usually only see documentaries at film festivals, and certainly rarely see family-friendly nature documentary (although I think Nénette and Sharkwater would qualify...more on the nature side of things), so retrospectively I shouldn't be surprized at the constructed narrative to create structure on the film. I can understand that, even if I didn't really dig the building voice over in anticipate of exciting action moments, as nature in action is exciting enough on it's one. But, I understand how that helps the audience along if need be. But I couldn't quite get my head into believing the story itself, as it really humanized the cats relationships which makes them more relatable but it also strips away their catness. I'm no expert in wild cats but a lot of what they presented as almost epic conflicts felt like pretty normal life-in-the-wild behaviour and certainly very cycle-of-life oriented.

I'm all for making things more dramatic, but not if it doesn't start with what's real and I couldn't tell what was story and what was real. This is where the 'family centric' nature of the film comes in, as it very focused on the mom-cats, but extremely vague on how they go from not being a mom to being a mom-cat. I also kept finding myself thikning "Is that really what that lioness was thinking?", and after a few times I started to lose confidence in what I was being told about the cats themselves. I didn't believe they knew what they were thinking, although I'm sure big cat behaviour has been followed and studied, I don't think we know what they are thinking. Instinct, actions, moments and desires can be analyzed, but thoughts? I'm not convinced.

But, what drew me to the film was the awesome, gorgeous, wonderful cats and or that it delivers. I thought I would be all over the lion family, but I was actually completely won over by the cheetah family - they are absolutely fascinating felines and I really appreciated seeing their story. Lots of cute big cat moments and gorgeous imagery throughout the film, which is what got me there in the first place. This cat-owner had more than a few "aww!" moments, but also had lots of disbelief, which isn't the best response for a documentary. I did enjoy lots of what I saw, but wanted to love it start to finish.

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but wanted to love it
I'd watch it again just to see the cheetahs
I'd recommend it as a family-friendly documentary

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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