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Sun April 12, 2009
One of the best documentaries ever made.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." Wordsworth
Everyone on Earth should see Earth, a Disney documentary so beautiful and poignant that it should be as well known as Bambi, and more important. Important because it glamorously reminds us of nature's seasonal spectacle, the Darwinian playing fields for animals in the long food chain and that global warming may be a canary in the cave for this splendor.
The incomparably photographed doc (see the head of the food chain, the great white shark, rise in the air in ultra slow motion) traces a few families on their annual journeys to the fruits of spring, the most interesting being the polar bears as the mother and two cubs, away from dad, must struggle to find food while the children struggle to walk for the first time. Dad's journey is the essence of survival. Doing quite well, however, is the lynx, whom narrator James Earl Jones describes as the very essence of the wilderness.
It's all couched in Disney's feel-good, avoid bloodshed modus operandi: The cheetah, catching a baby caribou, begins to bite on its neck as the Disney camera cuts away. Yet the lack of blood doesn't stop anyone from understanding the cycle of birth and death as a part of the whole scene.
Humor abounds in the face of this tragedy such as our watching young ducks fall from a tree home in their first flight or baboons walking like drunken dancers through a marsh. Or those scene-stealing penguins just waddling for a laugh.
The aerial photography of the Himalayas and Mt. Everest are unforgettable. But then I could say that for just about every scene. Earth took over 4000 days to photograph and $40 million to produce, making it the most expensive documentary ever made. But that's not the point?it may be one of the best documentaries ever made regardless.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com