PBS // 2010 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // February 19th, 2011
A predator. A teacher. A parent. A successful and very clever cat.
Living in an urban setting in Canada, my limited knowledge of and experience with leopards has come from books I read as a child, animated and live action Disney movies, zoos and nature documentaries I've seen over the years. I'd wager that most of us group them with other "large cats" like cheetahs (who never prosper, by the way!), lions and tigers. Thankfully, PBS has come along with Revealing the Leopard, a new documentary that sheds more light on these mysterious and beautiful wild animals.
To put it simply, leopards are fascinating. To begin with, conservative estimates from experts predict that there are approximately ten times more leopards in the world than all the lions, tigers and cheetahs combined! Add to that the fact that leopards hunt in both rural and urban environments, as well as jungles and plains, and in countries from Africa to China, Arabia and Russia. So if they're so plentiful and seem to be almost all around humans in many parts of the world, why don't we interact with them more? I'll leave that to this feature to explain.
Leopards cover nearly half the world, and while their numbers aren't documented, there may be as many as half a million, scattered thinly over Africa, India and Asia. While Indian leopards are smaller, they have become even more adaptable and careful than their cousins around the world, due to the significant number of natural predators who share their territory. Weighing less than an adult human, leopards have been known to kill and eat everything from monkeys to zebras and if they wanted to, they are strong enough to kill a human and stealthy enough to hide the remains. They are also the largest predator in the world to live in such close proximity to humans. Leopards are wary of humans and rarely stick around, but Revealing the Leopard follows one adult female as she hunts, cares for her young and evades predators. The life of a leopard is a fascinating one indeed. The proximity they often share with humans also begs the question of why there aren't more incidents of human attacks by leopards; it seems as though our two species have developed a respectful truce over the centuries that persists to this day.
Revealing the Leopard includes the same "play with video description" found on other PBS releases. Obviously developed for people who are visually impaired, this feature chimes in here and there with a male voice essentially describing what is showing onscreen at the time. While it's an interesting feature, it occasionally comes into conflict with the program's narration. Nothing against accomplished narrator Jim Conrad, but his voice is better suited to movie trailers and sports broadcasts than a nature documentary like this; there are attempts to create tension and drama here that just don't seem to suit the material. As it should be, the 1080i video presentation is given center stage, delivering sharpness and vivid color that flatters the subject matter. While the audio mix is somewhat dominated by the narration, it complements the image well, delivering some surprisingly immersive surround moments here and there. This release includes no extra features of any kind.
Revealing the Leopard is a beautiful Blu-ray presentation that reveals the personal world, challenges, dangers and rewards of the life of a female leopard and her cubs. Perhaps one of the greatest things we learn from this documentary is that at least one of Earth's most treasured and beautiful creatures seem to be thriving, in spite of their human neighbors.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* PBS Nature