Part of my ongoing monthly post series about documentary films I’m watching.
September 25 through October 3 is the Jackson Hole Wild Festival, a bi-annual conference and showcase of wildlife and science films from big-name (ahem…National Geographic) and independent filmmakers. I bought a 5-punch pass for the event, and so far I’ve seen two films, screened at the JH Center for the Arts. Each day has a theme – Big Cats, Oceans, Explore Africa, etc – reminding me that this is a biologically diverse planet with lots to document.
Thin Ice My first film of the festival. Introduced by a Subaru ad announcing an initiative to reduce all waste to zero in three national parks – Denali, Yosemite, and Grand Teton. And an announcement that Shell had stopped drilling in the Arctic – holy wow. As for the documentary, I really enjoyed it. How do you say you enjoyed a film about Climate Change? I think because it was about the quest to understand the science. I loved the section on how to drill for an ice core more than a mile deep/long, then use sophisticated equipment to melt the ice millimeter by millimeter and measure dust particulates (like carbon) and air bubbles to get data to establish a record of the earth’s climate going back hundreds of thousands of years. I’m currently reading Tim Flannery’s book The Weather Makers, and coincidentally, I came home after seeing Thin Ice to read Chapter 16, which is all about the climate modeling discussed in the film. It’s fascinating stuff, and the film really shows you the human beings – oceanographers, atmospheric physicists, biologists – who are painstakingly conducting experiments, doing research, testing hypotheses and scrutinizing predictions.
Tiger, Tiger I wanted to see this film because I am obsessed with apex predators and utterly beautiful places I will probably never visit. This is a documentary about an incredible man – Dr. Alan Rabinowitz of the nonprofit Panthera – and his love for the majestic Bengal tiger, denizen of the Indian and Bangladeshi coastal mangrove forest known as the Sundarbans. It’s also a film about the people who live in the jungle with these tigers – who revere the tigers, fear them, protect them, and are all too often killed by them. There’s so much here to take in and consider, I wish someone I know would see this film so we could talk about it.
For folks who love documentaries, it’s a great time to be plugged into the interwebs – so many films only a click away. It doesn’t take the place of human interaction though, and I wanted to add that the highlight of my week was seeing sociobiologist and ant expert E. O. Wilson on Monday night. He was interviewed informally by Kirk Johnson, and the whole evening was simply delightful. Wilson is 86 years old and still as witty, compassionate and wise as ever. Leave it to a Jackson Hole audience to ask him hilarious questions; Wilson’s off-the-cuff replies dished it right back (my paraphrased Q&A notes follow).
Q: If you could, would you send us all back to the Paleolithic?
EOW: Do you want to be a big, slimy-skinned, slobbering Labyrinthodont?
Q: If every ant species united against humanity, would they wipe us out?
EOW: Ha, no.
Q: Have you ever eaten a chocolate covered ant?
EOW: Yes – they’ve got a nice tang to them – that formic acid.
Q: Will insects be a major food source for humans in the future?
EOW: God, I hope not.
Q: What’s your favorite band?
EOW: I’m not much into rock music, but I’ve been listening to the Grateful Dead lately.
“Bengal Tiger in Water (13290323163)” by MJ Boswell from Annapolis, Md, USA – Bengal Tiger in Water. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Plos wilson” by Jim Harrison – PLoS. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons