Humans in the wilderness: Looking at documentaries exploring man and wildlife’s symbiotic relationship
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Humans in the wilderness: Looking at documentaries exploring man and wildlife’s symbiotic relationship
Shreya Paul
Oct 05, 2021

The animal kingdom has always impressed humans with its remarkable exhibitions of strength, intelligence, and ability. Over the last two decades, filmmakers have come up with hypnotic pieces of nature documentaries that depict animals in their natural habitat.

High-speed Internet and television have now given viewers access to several documentaries about the visceral animal instincts in an environment where only the fittest survive. The real challenge lies in finding the right ones to watch. This article aims to shed light on the few wildlife documentaries that deserve your attention and are a cut above the rest.

Born in China
7.5OTTplay Rating
Born in China, by Disney, is an engaging animal documentary that revolves around four animal families and how they overcome the inevitable obstacles that life hurls at them. John Krasinski reminds us that all animals must live, die, grow apart, and then come together again. This documentary has a moral undertone and aims to teach kids important life lessons to the point that even the cutest animal seems to be lecturing you to listen to your parents. The stories of all four families blatantly pander to the parent audience and push the same narrative -- that family comes first. Despite its shortcomings, Born in China does a great job of portraying the cyclical changes in life and has to be included in the top picks to watch with your family. The documentary also includes a handful of reassuring scenes that enunciate that kids are ultimately the masters of their destinies.
72 Cutest Animals
How is cuteness defined? Is visual allure the single measure of adorability? 72 Cutest Animals gathers a menagerie of charming contestants and examines how some creatures possess an emotional appeal that is impossible to resist. Some cute animals like the brown bear have a bad reputation. But that will not stop you from gushing over these cuddly animals. Over twelve thirty-minute episodes, this wildlife documentary keeps the viewer on their toes. Each episode pits one adorable animal against another in an attempt to conclude, once and for all, the cutest animal on this planet. How will the little penguin rank against the cheeky snow monkey? Will the delightful meerkat outdo the fluffy koala? 72 Cutest Animals is a visual treat that lives up to all the expectations.
The Year Earth Changed
8.6OTTplay Rating
The Year Earth Changed steps back to survey the consequences of the global lockdown and its impact on nature. Directed by Tom Beard and narrated beautifully by the celebrated David Attenborough, the documentary observes the silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic as cleaner skies, reduced car traffic, and reduced pollution allowed nature to mend itself slowly. The devastation caused by thoughtless human actions is palpable as we are informed about animals reclaiming some of their natural habitats, increasing nesting success rate, and other positive signs of healing. This is a comforting depiction of the hope that we can stop ourselves from becoming the mindless creatures from the pre-pandemic world.
Secrets of the Whales
8.6OTTplay Rating
The celebrated Disney+ series Secrets of the Whales, is a fine nature documentary that dives deep into the worlds of orcas, beluga whales, sperm whales, humpbacks, and narwhals. It covers the unique whale languages, culture, family dynamics, and histories. The exotic visuals, shot for over three years, take the audience on a dreamy journey through the mysteries of the beautiful deep. Secrets of the Whales devotes each episode to a different species of these stunning creatures. These episodes are informative and depict a variety of endangered whale species in their natural habitats.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
8.9OTTplay Rating
In this deeply moving documentary, David Attenborough, in his velvety, statesmanlike voice, narrates how wildlife reclaimed the city of Chernobyl, which had been abandoned after a tragic nuclear accident. Attenborough declares (from the very start) that this film is his “witness testimony,” and what follows is an emotional plea for us to stop destroying the planet and look at the world through the eyes of someone who has cherished it for almost 100 years. With his characteristic charisma, the seasoned veteran navigates from crisis to crisis as he describes the lopsided natural balance and the unceasing assault on nature by humans. Throughout this 83-minute movie, Attenborough instructs the viewers to look beyond themselves. He urges us to internalise the concept of coexistence and care for this beautiful planet throughout our lives. David Attenborough: A life on our Planet is a true inspiration and ranks securely among the best wildlife documentaries.
The Ivory Game
8OTTplay Rating
This is a documentary about the illegal and ceaseless ivory trade. The Ivory Game lays out the tragic significance of the black-market trafficking of ivory. For the criminals, it is all about the money. Over the last five years, 150,000 elephants have been killed for their precious tusks. The tusks are laundered into Hong Kong where they are carved into luxurious items to fuel a billion-dollar trade. Illegal poaching has led to the decimation of elephant populations in Western and Central Africa. The documentary exposes the smuggling of ivory by criminal networks. This Netflix production tugs at heartstrings and provides the definitive treatment that such a sensitive topic requires.
8.3OTTplay Rating
This is the story of the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Virunga delves into the alarming issues frequently plaguing this national park. The park’s rich ecosystem is home to several exotic creatures like elephants and mountain gorillas that attract poachers and smugglers from all over the world. In the gripping drama that ensues, the protagonists are forced into the frontline to protect the inhabitants of Virunga and maintain peace. Virunga covers the chilling stories of the national park in a 100-minute documentary that is one for the ages. The movie unflinchingly plunges directly into the dangers of patrolling the park and concludes in an epic good-versus-evil showdown.

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