Nature documentaries: a warning or just a dream away?

Imposing glaciers, endless stretches of ice, king penguins and the rare petrel: singer and birdwatcher Robin Heine all encountered them during his lifetime Southern Voices Scheduled trip to Antarctica. Hein takes inspiration for his music from nature and gradually realizes that in addition to being amazing, it is also vulnerable. Sees animals that may not have existed within one generation.

Henn isn’t the first to travel to Antarctica. Southern Voices Joins the history of expedition films, like Still Beautiful The Great White Silence (1924) by Herbert Bunting. Nature movies like Southern Voices As old as cinema itself.

Also read an interview with Robin Heine: ‘We’ve lost touch with the natural world’

Two years after the first cinema show in 1895, curious onlookers could watch Elephants in the zoo. The one-camera short is an illustration of the first decade of nature documentary. It’s mainly made for practical reasons in zoos or in terrariums in movie studios. It’s amazing entertainment, but always with a scientific sauce, like Fallen Katse movie (1900) by German film pioneer Oskar Meister, which shows in slow motion how a cat always lands on its feet. The fact that nature films are “information and entertainment” sings still holds true.

A few years later, the first hunting films appeared, such as Roosevelt in Africa (1909), with former President Theodore Roosevelt. These early hunting and safari movies are full of weirdness about exotic peoples and heavily armed heroes, who show above all that nature is something to be conquered.

Nature and technology films are closely related. Without microscopes, micro- and macro imaging, telephoto, time-lapse, and slow-motion lenses, nowadays the “high-resolution” kind would be in short supply. The nature documentary excels at making the invisible visible, whether it’s bacteria or the seahorses that Jean Pennlev photographed underwater.

A good example of that Birth of a flower From 1910, when used by nature film pioneer F. It produces fantastic, beautiful and abstract images that also appeal to fans of avant-garde films. For example, Dutch film, pro-art film, loved watching Haarlemmer JC Mol films, who was in From the world of crystals (1928) Images of crystals through a microscope, with beautiful abstract results – a work that came close to Filmliga’s model: ‘Absolute Film’.

Three years after the end of World War II, Disney began a series of groundbreaking wildlife films, shot in color: real life adventures (Between 1948 and 1960, fourteen films; 7 short films and 7 feature films). Many baby boomers grew up with these films that are now particularly controversial. In part because Disney has occasionally made inaugurations but mainly because of anthropomorphism; “Disneyfication” of nature. For example, the human characteristics of animals are assigned through voiceover, we mainly see “cute” animals, the most grotesque aspects of the animal kingdom are excluded from the picture and music plays a particularly indicative and funny role at times.

A distinctive feature of Disney’s nature films is the idea that the nuclear family also plays a central role in nature. Worst of all, ingrained emotions and manipulation through liberation are countless examples of animal cruelty. This is how the filmmakers delivered white wild (1958) Rodents off the cliff. This helped spread the myth that ferrets could commit suicide en masse by jumping off a cliff.

Climate change

In 2008, Disney started Disneynature Film Studio, part of an influential media conglomerate entirely dedicated to nature films. chimpanzee It was one of their first productions and in the entire Disney tradition it turned out to be completely anthropomorphic.

It can also be different. Since 1955, David Attenborough has created wildlife programming for the BBC that is no less influential than Disney’s. Attenborough (1926) is more scientific than Disney, though his documentaries are also full of how-to music and there is a primary interest in the beautiful or cruel aspects of nature: birth, parent-child love, and ‘eating’. The fact that animals in the wild often do nothing and basically rest or sleep is something that is rarely shown in nature films.

Only in recent years has Attenborough become more vocal about the impact of climate change on nature, particularly in his film life on our planet From 2020. This film follows in the footsteps of eco-friendly films from the 1970s. This is how Johann van der Kouken made it in 1978 flat forest On the imbalance between man and nature in the Wadden region. The trend of films showing humans destroying their habitats peaked in 1981 Animals movie. In it, meat consumption, animal testing and other matters related to animal care were depicted in a plastic way.

animal movie It’s been a bridge too far for people to associate nature films with wonder, mystery, and comfort, though the frank nature documentary, whether set to an alarming tone or not, is on the rise again. And for good reason, because before you know it, nature films inadvertently captured landscapes and animals for a hundred years that will soon disappear forever.

Southern Voices is part of the Nature Program in a tour of six recent nature films. It will be shown starting May 12 in all cinemas.

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