PBS // 2012 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 19th, 2012
No, not the Finnish symphonic metal band.
What kind of person goes on a Siberian Tiger Quest? According to this one-hour PBS program, the answer is simple: a crazy one. Biologist Chris Morgan deploys to the frigid wastes of Russia to catch a glimpse of the highly elusive Siberian tiger. They are so elusive (even though they look like pretty much every other tiger) that catching one on film -- or even seeing one with the naked eye! -- is apparently the zoological equivalent of a taking a sip from the Holy Grail.
To guide him on his Siberian Tiger Quest, Morgan enlists quite possibly the most insane man to ever live: Korean photographer Sooyoung Park. This guy left his family and spent years in Siberia, cordoning himself off in a four foot by four foot foxhole. There he would spend three months at a time in -30 degree cold doing nothing but pointing his camera out of the hole and waiting for a Siberian tiger to show.
He subsisted on rice and went to the bathroom in his hovel. Every couple of months, his research assistant (overheard constantly repeating to himself "I didn't sign up for this!") would swing by, deliver more rice, take Park's waste matter, and plead for him to return to his family. Eventually, he did capture footage of the tigers so...great!
Morgan, like me, is utterly dumbfounded by this guy's travails, and yet decides to give it a whirl himself. Park takes him around the landscape showing off his former haunts and the holes he spent so much time inhabiting. Along the way, they talk about the tigers, their impact on the ecosystem, and we do get to see Park's original footage. Then Morgan goes on his own Siberian Tiger Quest and...I won't spoil it, but I have to think Sooyoung Park hates God now.
This is the rare PBS Nature episode where the humans are way more interesting than the wildlife they're tracking. As far as I can tell, the Siberian tigers were simply shy, their absence making them compelling. But Sooyoung Park? That dude is off the charts! I defy you not to cringe as he runs through his experiences. While I don't share his willingness to live a frozen, lonely, poop-abutting life, I appreciate the sheer ballsiness of his enterprise. Morgan is a decent personality himself, earnest and animal-loving, but he's overshadowed by Park's sublime psychosis.
The DVD is pedestrian: standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 2.0 Stereo, English SDH subtitles, and no extras.
I don't really care about tigers, but this is must-watch TV!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated