Saturday Morning Documentary: Human Planet

14 02 2012

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these and I haven’t really been keeping up with my documentaries,  but since these files keep sitting on my computer, waiting to be deleted, I might as well write about them.  Yet another well-produced BBC documentary series, Human Planet explores eight different terrains across the globe– from Oceans, to Jungles, to, surprisingly, Cities, all through a human lens and humanity’s impact and adaptability throughout the world.  Narrated by John Hurt, it seems the series’s goal is to highlight human ingenuity in a time when it is so easy to blame and criticize ourselves (think: global warming, landfills, war, our fascination of the Kardashians).  In many ways, Human Planet more than achieves this goal: as the series shows, humans are willing to walk towards lions to get freshly killed meat, live in high altitudes and train eagles to catch prey, and as a community, work together to save an ancient building by covering it with mud.  Yes, we have lots of potential to do great and wonderful things.

One of the things that bugged me about this series is the cinematography.  It’s very well-shot– almost too well-shot.  Perhaps I’m just used to watching documentaries that feel more spontaneous, less technical and less set-up.  There are shots were the human subjects stare off wistfully into the distance, as if asked by the British crew to do so, or, for example, shots of the villagers chasing monkeys in the jungle, and the camera just so happens to be on the ground floor, capturing their feet as they run past.  It’s shot as if it were a feature film, at a variety of angles, and for me, it made me do a double-take.  However, other scenes, like following a man as he walks across a river on a rope, is shot so well and beautifully that it doesn’t draw attention to it.

Although not as entertaining and awe-inspiring as Life or Planet Earth, Human Planet follows the trend of well-made BBC productions.

Annual fishing in Lake Antogo





Saturday Morning Documentary: Attenborough’s Journey

19 03 2011

Famously known for narrating wildlife documentaries including BBC Planet Earth and Life, David Attenborough is rarely seen in front of the camera by viewers (or at least I didn’t know what he looked like prior to watching this documentary).  As David sets out to film yet another documentary series called First Life, one that takes a look at the beginning of life on Earth, a documentary crew follows him along on his journeys across the world, providing us with a face of the mysterious man with the passionate, deep voice.

As we see through the documentary, David has a great sense of humor, even about the setbacks he and the crew have on their filming.  Despite this, it is clear to see that he really enjoys nature a lot, and the tender age of 83, he is still adventurous and learning, reading books, being mobile, climbing mountains and walking with his own to feet.

One things for sure (and this is super cheesy, I know): David Attenborough is one rare species.

David Attenborough

David on top a mountain on the Rockies





Saturday Morning Documenty: BBC Natural World: Panda Makers

22 01 2011

Okay, so Panda Makers doesn’t sound as cool as Monkey-Eating Eagle but at least it lives up to its name.  And if you like pandas, there’s plenty of OMG-I’m-dying-from-cuteness! in this episode of Natural World.

Because of the endagerment of giant pandas, folks in a city in China started a breeding program consisting of raising 300 pandas in captivity and then releasing them into the wild in the hopes of increasing the population.  This, of course, is controversial because, as David Attenborough (YES!!!!) explains, many captivity breeding programs around the world have failed and some people are arguing that all the money and time being spent on the pandas could be used to protect or save a different species.  However, consider the alternative: doing nothing and letting the panda population slowly become overwhelmed by humans.  It’s worth a try, right?

The footage, as usual, is fantastic.  We get right up close to lots of pandas in the captivity as well as some in the wild.  There’s a tense scene with a female in a cage who is ready to mate but she, along with the male she is set up with, don’t seem to be able to get the hang of it and start to get frustrated, leading to some aggression.  At one point, there’s also footage of a live panda birth, which frankly surprised me as the baby panda suddenly popped out, slippery and squealing.  I didn’t know baby pandas slipped out so easily like that!

What I like best about this episode is, like Planet Earth, there is a gentle nudge of conservation and environmentalism — much more prevalent for obvious reasons in this episode.  Coupled with cute images of panda cubs, it’s impossible not to feel for the furry little creatures (and if you don’t, then hooray, you’ve successfully become an android!).

And last but not least, watching this reminded me of one of my sister’s cats named Panda, named so because of the two black circles around her eyes.  Panda panda!!!!  I miss that cat.

Pandas and workers

Panda cubs with workers at the centre





Saturday Morning Documentary: BBC Life

4 08 2010
Swordfish and shoal

Swordfish and a shoal of fish

Following in the tradition of fantastic fascinating documentary series produced by the BBC is Life. After the worldwide acclaim for Planet Earth, Life stepped in after for those who want a high-definition look at our world.  The series, ten episodes in total, covers various species and, well, life forms around our planet–from the first episode, Challenges of Life, to whales in Mammals, to even unique vegetation in Plants, this series is arguably on par with, if not better, than Planet Earth.  The original British series is hosted once again by David Attenborough, while the US version is narrated by Oprah; I’ve read many comments about how bad Oprah is as a narrator so I’d stick with Attenborough’s narration instead.

There really isn’t much I can say about this series except that the images and cinematography are phenomenal and captivating.  My favourite episode is probably Mammals (ep. 3) or Fish (ep. 4); there’s a sequence where the crew is filming flying fish and it looks like nothing I’ve seen before.

Though the episodes are an hour in length, the last 15 minutes are a unique behind-the-scenes/making-of documentary within a documentary, giving viewers a glimpse of the challenges of filming, the different and exotic locations they traveled to, and their interaction with the animals.  In the second episode, Reptiles and Amphibians, the crew must get extremely close to Komodo dragons in order to film them, putting their lives at risk amongst the unpredictable animals.  And in the Insects episode, the crew struggles to get their camera high enough in the trees with limited daylight to film monarch butterflies in South America (or was it Mexico?).

All in all, Life is definitely worth checking out especially if you enjoyed Planet Earth.  I’ll admit that the first episode left me a little disappointed but the following episodes featured some pretty amazing, cool, and of course, bizarre things on Earth.

BBC Life

BBC Life