Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Last Lions (2011)

The Last LionsThis spectacular movie follows the life of one lioness as she finds a territory of her own, and deals with an antagonistic pride of lions and the massive (and deadly) prey animals in her territory.

The Jouberts capture the lioness' life like no other filmmakers have ever done. They document amazing details of her life, going far beyond the cliches of the average lion documentary. The story they tell is harsh, brutal, and HEARTBREAKING. If you have the fortitude to stick with the movie until the end, the story is ultimately uniquely uplifting.

The narrator's script delves deeply into what the pseudo-scientific types will want to dismiss as "anthropomorphizing", but if you can look at what has been filmed and not know that every aspect of this film is absolutely and beautifully true, including the narration, you're just not paying attention.

I know people who could not sit through the beautiful fable Two Brothers because they thought the tigers suffered too much in the story. This movie is reality, and it is far harder to take than the fable. But if you can take it, you will never forget it.

A very important movie.

A simply gorgeous and remarkable documentary about a lone lioness trying to survive and raise her cubs. Why she was not part of a pride of lions at the beginning of the story is never explained, but she is expelled from her territory by a large and aggressive pride, and must go to a island inside a river teaming with crocodiles, hippos, water buffalo, and other dangerous animals.

I don't want to "give away" the plot...this documentary DOES have a plot and one as riveting as any really good movie could be. Filmed by the husband and wife team of wildlife filmmakers, the Jouberts, scenes of real life in Africa unroll with beauty, cruelty, and intensity. As always, their documentaries seem to "get" the feel of wild Africa as if they were part of it, living and experiencing it.

I would not recommend it for young or very sensitive children/adults since the brutality of the real-life world of lions trying to survive is nothing like a Disney movie....but the "main character", the lone lioness, is one you will remember long after seeing this top quality documentary.

The background music, African in nature, is lovely, and Jeremy Irons does a good job narrating. I truly can't believe this was not up for some documentary award, it is, in my opinion, that worthwhile and well done.

Highly recommended as are any of the Jouberts' films for National Geographic.

Buy The Last Lions (2011) Now

Think about the phrase when describing someone who has "the heart of a lion". In The Last Lions, Beverly and Dereck Joubert aim to demonstrate this phrase, in the form of a quasi-documentary film.

The film is not quite objective in flavor as a real documentary, but is still filled with facts and observations from the eyes of the Jouberts. The very scientific types (as well as those who believe animals are beneath humans) may completely dismiss the film due to its anthropomorphic nature, but I believe this one should not be completely dismissed. You may ask, why not? The film is filled with details and observations that are telling; the award-winning duo, the Jouberts, have dedicated their entire lives to the study and preservation of cats. They have braved the volatile weather and forgone daily comforts to catch even a glimpse into the lives of these creatures. Their observations are detailed here, and narrated by Jeremy Irons using deeply sonorous tones evocative of the warm, rich colors of the film.

You are thrust head first into an intimate acquaintance with Ma Di Tau, the main lioness. A little background informationLions have a unique social structurethey group in prides, and are comprised of a single male and several females. The females hunt, and the males have to secure their lands, often against other male lions. When a male challenges another, the male either stands down (and is driven off), or fights. If the other male wins, it is in their instinct to kill any cubs from the previous male. Another option is for the female to take her cubs and run, hopefully joining another pride. This social structure places the female lions of prides with unstable factors (weak males, encroaching humans, etc) in particularly difficult situations. The instinct to survive, or to protect cubs, is a familiar scenario in nature, man included. Though this is not necessarily what the film is about, you will come to sympathize with Ma Di Tau, you will cry when she does, and you will roar when she does. The point of the film is that you will ultimately come to an understanding of Ma Di Tau, and come to celebrate what it means to have "a heart of a lion", or in this film, "the heart of a lioness."

The only part with numerical facts come spliced in the ending credits, reminiscent of the Jouberts' TedTalk, in which there are details about the dwindling creatures and mere minute shots on what the Jouberts went through in order to capture the footage found in the film. The fact that there wasn't even a human featured in the film should be telling enough of the subtle ways humans affects can wildlife, and the Jouberts have an intimate understanding of this. This film is their own message, their own cries, in hopes of an eventual triumph.

Read Best Reviews of The Last Lions (2011) Here

Wildlife photographers and documentarians Beverly and Dereck Joubert created the Big Cats Initiative with National Geographic to educate people about the declining populations of large felines in the wild and, hopefully, to save them from extinction. "The Last Lions" is part of that effort. The film follows the daily life and struggles of a lioness and her cubs in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Fifty years ago, there were about 450,000 lions in Africa. Now there are an estimated 20,000. It is the filmmakers' hope that giving people an intimate view of these animals, in a narrative form, will inspire the audience to want to protect them.

The filmmakers call the lioness Ma di Tau (Mother of Lions), and actor Jeremy Irons narrates her story. Ma di Tau has a mate and three cubs but is forced to flee her home territory across a perilous river, when another pride of lions in search of new territory invade hers. She and her cubs take refuge on Duba Island, in the middle of a swampy river. When a herd of buffalo take up residence, it's not clear whether they will be dinner or a new menace. And a lioness with whom Ma di Tau did battle still looms threateningly on the other side of the river with her following of females, seemingly not content to let Ma di Tau and her cubs alone.

What is interesting about this film is also what is likely to be controversial. Ma di Tau's fight for survival for herself and her cubs is turned into high drama, which it is, but is also imbued with emotions and particular motivations via the narration. I'm not entirely against this. Emotions are not unique to humans. Countless species experienced them before humans existed. I don't think the film overplays the emotions, but I was sometimes doubtful of the motives it attributed to Ma di Tau. Even without the narration, this is an incredible story, however. It has drama, action, and will evince a gamut of emotions in the human audience no matter how the cats felt.

I was surprised how far the animals would go to defend their brethren and to destroy their enemies. I've always thought of lions as powerful predators, but "The Last Lions" makes it clear that hunting is difficult and usually unsuccessful. The challenge of feeding and protecting cubs in this environment, on her own, is heart-rending, and, though she is usually stoic about it, it gets to Ma di Tau sometimes. The shifting allegiances between the animals are fascinating, but the film focuses on narrative rather than facts, leaving me to wonder whether the animals were acting out of instinct, logic, or emotions. It's an incredible, intimate look at life in the wild, in any case.

The DVD (Virgil Films 2012): Bonus features include "Behind the Scenes" (27 min), which is footage of the Jouberts filming without any narration or explanation, some deleted scenes, a publicity spot for the Big Cat Initiative called "Cause an Uproar(dot)org" (30 sec), 2 theatrical trailers (2 min each), and an "Interview with Dereck & Beverly Joubert" (12 min) in which the couple answer some questions about the film and about their many books. Subtitles for the film are available in English.

Want The Last Lions (2011) Discount?

My decision to watch this movie was the reason that I watched many other movies. It is fueled by my love for lions, and other big cats. I didn't read a description of this movie, and I went in blind. I was far from disappointed at the end and resolution of this film.

It is very well put together. High production values aside, this film features some of the most touching scenes I have seen yet in any lion documentary. The narrator's deep calm voice guides you in a detailed tour of a single lion's love for her cubs. It is extremely easy to get absorbed into the turbulent emotions the main characters of this film goes through. I didn't cry at the end of Titanic, but I sure as heck teared up multiple times in this movie. The lions are portrayed in such a way that I almost believed this was staged, as in the lions are merely actors guided by a director and trainer behind the camera. However, the events are so vivid, I don't think it's possible to manufacture something like this.

This is a rare find, no doubt. Out of all the documentaries that tried to humanize the lions, and attempt to translate their inner thoughts for us to understand, this one did it with efficiency. The commentary combined with the lions' actual body language, and even the light dulling in their eyes in desperate times, weaved a believable yet entertaining story. This deserves two thumbs way up.

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