Judge David Johnson used to watch gorillas in the mist until he was asked to leave.
"It's so nice that kids get to grow up right next to gorillas."
Join actress Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta) as she and wildlife superstar Jack Hannah tour the mountain gorilla refuge in Rwanda. She and her guides check out the park, swing by the research complexes, chat with the scientists in the know and observe the majestic gorillas wandering around in their natural habitats, munching shoots and leaves, and generally being awesome.
Unfortunately, as you can tell by the title of the disc—Gorillas on the Brink—the thrust of the feature isn't one of happiness and cheer. Sure, it's inspiring to watch the gorillas and hear about the excellent work conservationists are doing to propel the endangered species into a more self-sustaining lifestyle, but the looming cloud of their ridiculously small numbers (700 in existence according to the program) and the threat of dirtbag poachers permeates their story.
The folks in front of and behind the camera lens do a great job of running through the complicated elements of the gorillas' story, both optimistic and heartbreaking. While some of the language used to describe the gorillas in the program is weirdly similar to how one would describe a human being, I couldn't help coming away from watching the disc with a profound appreciation for the conservation efforts going into the animals' protection, as well as a fascination with the gorillas themselves. Really, these animals are seven kinds of great and their plight, while diminishing in a positive trend in recent decades, is a gut-wrencher.
Portman proves to be a great host, emphatic and deeply sentimental towards the gorillas. She is authentically enchanted with the wildlife she is viewing and takes a true interest in learning as much as she can about all facets of their existence. Having Jack Hannah along is helps as well, as he brings his trademark zest for animals to the adventure.
The documentary offers a glimpse into all angles of the gorilla conservation effort and succeeds in providing an excellent look at where the endeavor stands today. Combine rich information with Natalie Portman's enthusiasm and more gorilla footage than you shake a stick at, and you've got a wildlife winner on your hands. In short, if the subject matter interests you, check out Gorillas on the Brink.
The feature looks great, though a fake widescreen transfer hurts the technical achievement. Ten minutes worth of bonus footage comprises the supplemental material.
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