Environmental Film Reviews

Netflix’s Our Planet Says What Other Nature Series Have Omitted

The River and the Wall

Directed by Ben Masters

The Rio Grande stretches along the Texas/Mexico border from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. There are parts where you cannot see the river because of the border wall already in place. This is one of the many simple, practical details in The River and the Wall, a political documentary that doubles as a travelogue of the Texas border. By focusing on the physical realities/challenges of the river, not presidential rhetoric, the filmmakers make a practical case for why the wall is a bad idea.

The Fisherman and the Forest

Produced by NHK World-Japan

Shigeatsu Hatakeyama can see himself in his grandson. The pair explore nature together in Kesennuma in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture so Hatakeyama can pass on his love of all living things. Culturally, their adventures feel like a father-and-son fishing trip, but instead of discussing the birds and the bees, Hatakeyama is passing on wisdom about the forest and the sea. If his grandson takes over his oyster farm, Hatakeyama calculates that his family business will be a century old.

When Lambs Become Lions

Directed by Jon Kasbe

Following the success of animal wildlife docs like The Cove, Blackfish, and Trophy, When Lambs Become Lions arrives with the most titillating scenario. It is a crime drama examining the ivory trade in Kenya through the lives of two men on opposite sides of the law: Asan, a National Reserve Game Ranger who uses brutal tactics to discourage poaching, and the anonymous “X”, who manages an illegal and dangerous poaching operation.

Into the Canyon

Directed by Peter McBride

You would expect the Environmental Film Festival to offer its fair share of dispatches from the eternal battle between man and nature. But if one of the perils of the documentary format is the tendency of a director to make themselves part of the story, that goes double for nature docs. Such is the conflict in this celebration of nature as a buddy movie travelogue. Photographer Pete McBride, who directed, documented his journey with Kevin Fedarko, who teamed up (with the help of seasoned guides) to make a 750-mile hike across the length of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, the end product is less about a natural wonder than about the friends they made along the way.

Read full reviews at Washington City Paper