By: Debbie Wang
This Earth Day, we’re treated to Disneynature’s most ambitious documentary about the wildlife in China. Following three separate animal families, Born in China is not only a beautiful film to look at, but manages to showcase the highs and lows of living in the majestic, undisturbed terrains of one of the world’s largest countries. Stunning imagery is a given; it’s hard not to be amazed by the sweeping landscapes and flowing waterfalls. But under the direction of Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death), we’re treated to an even more inspiring movie about life, death, and all the moments in between.
Narrated by John Krasinski, the filmmakers give viewers an intimate look into the lives of Da Wa, a mother snow leopard and her two baby cubs; Tao Tao, a golden snub-nose monkey who struggles to find his place in his family; and Ya Ya, a giant panda watches her daughter learn to navigate the world on her own. Their stories are bookended by shots of cranes, some of the oldest depicted birds in Chinese history that symbolize souls of the dead being carried into a new life – the rebirth of one life in another.
As one of the rarest animals to spot in the wild, much of what we know about the snow leopard is still remains a mystery. But what we do know from this film is that a mother cat will do anything for her cubs. There is a constant cat-and-prey scenario in the works as Da Wa hunts to feed her babies. We’re torn because we don’t want the prey to die (they have families too!), but we can’t stand to see Da Wa fail.
Tao Tao can’t quite figure out his role in his family. His father doesn’t give him the attention he wants, and his mother is too busy caring for his baby sister. Joining a pack of other monkeys, the Lost Boys, he goes about his mischievous ways while trying to earn love and affection from his parents.
But the stars of the show are definitely the giant pandas. Ya Ya, being an overly protective mother, never wants her adorable, cute, fuzzy baby to grow up. But of course, she is determined to follow her evolutionary instincts to explore her new world and climb some trees without her mother breathing down her neck! Between eating 40 lbs of bamboo a day and snuggling with her baby, Ya Ya’s stomach and heart are both full.
We’re also treated to seeing the amazing journey that a herd of female chirus that migrate every spring across Western China to give birth to their calves. This precious time away from the fathers allow the mothers and calves to bond and to learn each other’s scents.
Viewers will be captivated by the scenery and the little ones will no doubt become more and more captivated about these animals living in the majestic wild. The latest in the Disneynature franchise is accompanied by a soaring score from Barnaby Taylor that seamlessly weaves in traditional Chinese sounds with the rest of the orchestra. The film balances your curiosity to learn more about these wild creatures with a sense of urgency that we need to save these animals before they’re all gone.
This is definitely a movie you’ll want to see on the big screen. It’s the next best way to appreciate the scenery second to actually flying to China. Don’t forget to stay for the end credits where we’re treated to some behind-the-scenes footage. Trust me when I say I haven’t felt more joy this year than when I saw those rascal monkeys pretending to operate the camera. It says something of a film if I would gladly sit through all 400 hours of footage that was shot with a smile on my face.
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