This is a mesmerizing documentary about orphan elephants and orangutans who are given sanctuary and nurtured until they are ready to be returned to their natural habitat in the wild. Each minute is as captivating as the next but, with a running time of 40 minutes, there are just not enough of them.
World-renowned primatologist, Dr Birute Mary Galdikas, runs a nursery for over 300 baby orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo. In an equally untamed region of the globe, celebrated wildlife expert Dr Dame Daphne M Sheldrick rescues baby elephants in the jungles of Kenya. Both these women have dedicated their lives to giving a safe haven to abandoned fledglings and without their help these infants would have perished.
Dr Galdikas introduces us to her ever-burgeoning nursery of primates, each one being wrapped in diapers and affection and given everything their mother no longer can. The orangutans respond with unbridled warmth and their intelligence and humanity keeps shining through. There is a wonderful scene when Dr Galdikas’ son gives a particular favorite a ride home on his motorbike. The little fellow clings on for dear life, never taking his eyes off the road, clearly enthralled by every moment and smug in the knowledge that he is the one who was chosen for this special treat.
Most of the baby elephants Dr Sheldrick rescues have been orphaned by poachers, and she has the additional problem of having to win the trust of these long-memoried mammals. One terrified little mite makes a crazed attack on his trainer, still traumatized by the sight of a hunter slaying his mother, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. But all ends well and in the next scene this roaring mouse sucks hungrily on his supersized bottle of milk, fed to him by a human hand. Unfortunately, however, we never learn how this animal’s faith was restored as everything keeps getting cut so incredibly short.
When the DVD is released, there will apparently be a lot of additional footage, all of which will undoubtedly be as enchanting as the film, whether viewed on a 3D Imax screen or at home on a 22″ TV, as it’s the animals who charm us, not the special effects. So whether audiences will want to park and pay for a 40 minute cinematic experience (if they know it to be that short) or wait for the DVD, is yet to be seen but, in an era when audiences have been conditioned for overly-long films, it’s quite likely to be the latter, and this thought was endorsed by the little boy who was sat next to me in the theatre. When the credits rolled, he turned to his mother and asked incredulously, “Is it finished?” What a pity no 8-year-olds were at the studio board meeting when this extremely short film got its stamp of approval.
Narrated by Morgan Freeman
USA, Canada and Hungary – 8th April, 2011