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Africa: The Serengeti (1994)

| January 16, 1994 | 0 Comments

The animals living in the wilds of Africa have an order, a schedule and a system of natural law by which that spend their entire lives. Deviate from them and you’re dead. That is the central idea presented by ‘Africa: The Serengeti’ a spectacular and sometimes breathtaking IMAX feature created by George Casey who also directed the stunning ‘Ring of Fire’.

We learn that there is order in nature by which the lioness kills for food then gives the carcass to the male. The male has his share then the lioness and the cubs, then the smaller predators on down to the vultures. This is a system and a way of life.

Early on we meet the Wildebeests who will become the focal point of Casey’s film. They are cattle who seem to serve the basic functions of their own survival but from the film’s point of view they are also a major source of food for lions if they aren’t careful. In one tense moment we see a herd walking cautiously past a den of lions waiting in the bush for their moment of attack. That’s just one of the many stunning moments that Casey was able to capture. There is a heartbreaking scene in which the wildebeest heard attempts to climb some slippery rocks to evade alligators. Some become too exhausted to carry on and will eventually become food.

Sometimes we feel like interlopers especially in the mating scenes in which the male lion almost seems boorish, this followed by an extreme close-up of the two blissful lions sleeping in the sun. But it also offers some images that aren’t so easy to take like vultures picking the bones of a wildebeest to which narrator James Earl Jones offers ‘In nature, nothing is wasted’. We get a stomach-churning glimpse of the cheetah as it hunts down a wildebeest and rips it apart.

To say that the photography of ‘Africa: The Serengeti’ is breathtaking is an understatement but the central theme of the film is that the order of the wild happens because out there it’s survival of the fittest. Even the infants are at risk if they don’t pull their weight.

Because it is a documentary and subsequently a mirror of life we don’t know what to predict. After having seen the wildebeests give birth we are told the if they don’t get up and walk then the heard will abandon them. Sure enough one had trouble and the heard moves on. We fear for its life because we know that it can’t possibly survive. In one surprisingly emotional moment the young cow springs to its feet and catches up with the family, the kind of stirring moment that only real life can provide.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1994) View IMDB Filed in: Documentary