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Review: Wild Ocean (2008)

Directed by: , | 40 minutes | | Voice over:

The living environment of fish is changing all over the world: global warming is also increasing the temperature of our seas and oceans. This also changes the habits of the animals living there. In the case of sardines, for example, they simply refuse to swim in water warmer than 19 degrees Celsius. But of course humans also have a (big) hand in the fate of the ocean inhabitants: due to the increasing fish catch, there is not enough left for the predators at the top of the food chain to survive. The 3D IMAX documentary “Wild Ocean” proves that things can be done differently: a that conveys a positive feeling. If more countries follow the good example of South Africa and New Zealand, where parts of the coastline are protected, ocean life could gradually recover.

“Wild Ocean” shows the beauty of nature in its full glory and – rightly this time – fails to show the other side. After all, we all have images of polluted waters on our minds; “Wild Ocean” is a brave attempt at “positive parenting” for creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas (of British percussion group Stomp). On the East coast of South Africa, near Transkei and KwaZulu-Natal, lies the Wild Coast: a beautiful rugged nature reserve where the ocean – according to “Wild Ocean” – still looks as it should have looked thousands of years ago. Every winter (the months of June and July) billions of sardines migrate from the Cape to KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. Seen from the air, these schools of fish look like oil slicks. This unique phenomenon, known as the sardine run, is found nowhere else in the world and is good news for dolphins, sharks, gannets, seals and other animals; they eagerly await the arrival of these tasty snacks. But the local population also lives from this sardine run. From small children with plastic buckets to elderly ladies who use their skirts when fishing: everyone is infected with sardine fever during these months. The tension is well stepped up in the film: thanks to the directors’ appropriate score, you are on of your seat when it actually comes to a confrontation between prey and predator.

The film was shot in more than two years. The Wild Coast is a rewarding subject for a documentary; the landscape is breathtaking, as shown by various aerial shots, but it is the underwater scenes that remain the most memorable. It is as if the sardines are performing a ballet, they perform their movements so gracefully and well attuned to each other. Watching dolphins swimming and communicating is always a joy, but with these beautiful images any wildlife enthusiast will be content. The fact that there are also beautiful shots of sharks and humpback whales are made is an extra plus. Incidentally, the scenes in which the gannets dive to the sardines are equally spectacular: the birds hit the water at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour and are also a feast for the eyes under water.

A disadvantage of the documentary could be that the scenes, however beautiful, are not capable of continuous repetition. Despite the short playing time of forty minutes, the patience of the quickly annoying viewer may be tested, because at one point they do believe that constant hunting for those sardines and those recurring aerial shots of the natural beauty. Nevertheless, “Wild Ocean” is a must for lovers of nature documentaries and especially those interested in life in the oceans.

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