Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nature Films?

Hey Folks,

Alright, our investigation into nature continues. Tonight, on the good ol' CBC I watched a segment of the 5th Estate. On tonight's special, entitled 'Cruel Camera', the investigators were focusing on the treatment of animals in the realm of cinema and television.

The segment that truly caught me was that on Nature Documentaries. I am a huge fan of nature documentaries, and LOVE Planet Earth. David Attenborough is my hero (he's the narrator). Countless hours of joy have been accumulated with that series.

Without much surprise, I discovered on this show, that the Disney Corporation was huge in making these documentaries, which still air, using domesticated animals, playing them off as wild. On top of this, a famous scene of a polar bear sliding down a hill actually took place in a studio where they dropped the cub down the hill. Also, a scene with Lemmings jumping over a cliff, despite the fact that it was filmed outside of lemming territory and lemmings actually don't jump off cliffs. It's just an urban legend.

David Attenborough, thank the Lord, is one who doesn't show up on any of these lists who uses domesticated animals in his filming - except for a segment on the birth of Polar Bears, which was shot at a zoo - but for the purposes of being able to safely show a polar bear birth, which is not possible in the Wild. It puts both the polar bear cub and the cameraman at risk that way. He goes on to explain how we wants to give the truth in his documentaries, which is often difficult to do. Thus Planet Earth taking 5 years to make ( I recall a making-of section in one of their sections where one of the cameramen spent over 100 hours waiting for a bird of paradise to do his mating dance thing).

The show also exposed, in graphic detail, the cruel treatments that are afforded these animals who look so cute, cuddly and take on humanistic traits onscreen. In class we have been tackling this idea of human morality and judgment superimposed on the animal kingdom. It seems that films and TV help to continue this notion of our assumptions on the animal kingdom rather than just appreciating them in their natural habitat

Well that's it for this post. Cheers all

1 comment:

Dr. B said...

Thanks for bringing this up in class. It raises key issues about how most of our experiences of nature are mediated. Most of us have only come face to face with a small handful of creatures in the wild, but we have this impression that we have “seen” a lot more because we accept, often uncritically, that film provides us with a “window” on nature. Is the use of animal actors the key issue? Even unstaged footage is reinterpreted by the way it get edited and framed within the film’s narrative (Attenborough talks a lot about predation and competition – is he imposing an interpretive framework?) Think of filmic representations of human “reality” aren’t some of the more “truthful” narratives done with actors? Would simply putting a camera in someone’s living room tell us more about what people are really about?