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Review: Undiscovered Brazil – Brazil – A Natural History (2011)

Director: | 250 minutes |

Brazil is in many ways a country of extremes. From a socio-economic point of view, this applies, for example, to the enormous gap between rich and poor that is so characteristic of the largest country in South America, but certainly also of the landscape diversity. Lush rainforests, expansive grasslands, species-rich wetlands and pristine coastlines are all very diverse ecosystems that can be found in Brazilian territory and habitats that are home to an enormous variety of special animal and plant species.

‘Undiscovered Brazil’, also known under the original title ‘Wildes Brasilien’, is a fine attempt by the Austrian company Terra Mater Factual Studios, specialized in documentaries, to showcase the natural beauty of Brazil in a five-part series. In the first episode, the Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica) is discussed, an enormous species-rich forest that unfortunately lies in the most densely populated part of Brazil and has been demolished for more than 90 percent over time. Despite the fact that most of the Atlantic Rainforest has now disappeared, the remaining part is still enormously rich in plants and animals. In ‘Undiscovered Brazil’ we meet some very special inhabitants of the area such as the muriqui (a rare monkey species that is largely bound to treetops) and the sooty swift. The latter species has even managed to occupy a very special ecological niche, because the lightning-fast birds nest behind the imposing water curtains of the mighty Iguaçu Falls. In the remaining four episodes, we also get to know the jaguars, caimans, giant otters, capybaras and rich bird world of the Pantanal, the grassy plains of southern Brazil dominated by freak animals such as giant anteaters, maned wolves, termites and armadillos,

The great thing about ‘Undiscovered Brazil’ is that space is not only made available for the traditional icons of the Brazilian wilderness, but that the necessary less well-known or less loved, often difficult to film, animals are also amply covered. For example, the documentary series zooms in extensively on the hunting behavior of the beautiful and venomous golden lanceolate snakes on the island of Queimada Grande and makes the viewer part of the distinct breeding habits of seabirds such as the American frigate bird and the brown gander. Dramas at the micro level, such as crabs that fall prey to an octopus and a moray eel in a small and shallow tide pool, are also part of the colorful and richly varied nature palette that ‘Undiscovered Brazil’ presents us. The wondrous animal world of Brazil is portrayed with extraordinary beauty in the series, while the images are also interpreted by providing a lot of information about the species that pass before the eye of the viewer. In any case, information provision is an important part of the nature film tradition in the German language area: not only does a procession of exotic animal species pass by, but what you see is also placed in a context, so that you also get a compact overview of the biology and ecology of a kind.

Despite the fact that the market for nature films is quite competitive and full, ‘Undiscovered Brazil’ knows how to distinguish itself from many other productions due to its informative character, the often beautiful images of special species and the good research work. Without a doubt a series that you, as a true nature lover, must have in your film collection.

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