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The Last Lions (2011)

March 8, 2011

  
directed by: Dereck Joubert
produced by: Dereck and Beverly Joubert
rated PG (for some violent images involving animal life)
88 min.
U.S. release date: February 18, 2011 (limited) and March 4, 2011 (currently at Chicago’s Landmark Century Cinema)
 
From Animal Planet to the Discovery Channel, coverage of life in the untamed wild can be easily attainable by anyone looking for the most natural representation of animal life. The popularity of “March of the Penguins” in theaters made room for Disneynature to release some incredible films focusing on Earth Day in the past couple years and now comes a short theatrical release from National Geographic. While the narration in these films often humanize the subjects a bit much, they are no less awesome to behold on the big screen and easily provide an enjoyable family outing.
  
A film like this should be seen for the breathtaking cinematography that captures a majestic creature up close in its own environment. In this case, such filming is done by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, explorers and conservationists who have spent decades among the animal population in Africa. The two show up during the end credits, wisely removing themselves out of the feature, knowing full well that in order to portray the true impact of a lioness raising her cubs, humans are not needed.
 
 

 
 
At the start of the film we are told that, ” In the past 50 years the lion population has fallen from 450,000 to 20,000,” which adds a grave reality to the existence of these iconic cats.
“The Last Lions” takes us into the wetlands of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where we meet a lioness named Ma di Tau who, after the death of her mate,  must protect her two cubs from those that would prey on the young and weak. Along with the threat of enormous water buffalo herds and curious hyenas, there is the rival pride of lionesses with their silver-eyed leader that shadow the traveling cats.
 
It’s a given that we will what a mother lion will do to protect and provide for her cubs, but to sit and watch what this one does is pretty impressive. Cats do not like to get wet and yet she must brave crocodile-infested rivers in order to attempt an unexpected attack on a buffalo. She must learn to adapt and learn from failure. Yet we’re reminded that nature is cruel, when we see her walk away from one of her cubs, injured being healing.  You don’t have to be a parent to feel that scene tug at your heart, as the cries of the injured cub haunt her mother’s.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Back in 2008, Jeremy Irons narrated “Eye of the Leopard” a National Geographic channel documentary film that followed the life of a young leopard cub in the African wild. Irons returns to lend his voice to another documentary, this time following an African lioness as she protects her cubs from the harsh wild of the savanna. He’s a fitting choice, as the image of evil Uncle Scar from “The Lion King” comes to mind while Irons purrs throughout the film.
  

“The Last Lions” seeks to raise awareness of the dwindling lion population in Africa, but it also serves as a reminder of the circle of life that still exists out there. Therefore, this isn’t just another nature film for all children to see slo-mo attacks and cutesy cubs (although there’s plenty of that), proceeds from ticket sales will go to NG’s  Big Cats Initiative which increases awareness through education, research, and conservation. Even viewing the film’s trailer will donate ten cents toward a jungle-king conservation fund. For more ways to donate, check out National Geographic’s Cause an Uproar page and do what you can to keep these cats alive and well in their habitat.

  
  
 
RATING: ***

 

 

 

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