Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gorilla Doctors: Only On CBC-TV

So there I was at a lavish pre-Thanksgiving dinner on my street and the talked turned to the supposedly increasingly irrelevance of the struggling CBC.
I begged to differ, of course.
But I now wish I'd already seen Gorilla Doctors, an amazing new Canadian made documentary premiering Thursday October 16 on CBC's The Nature Of Things.
It's the kind of premier presentation only a CBC would dare attempt in this age of  amateur singing and dancing shows and wacky  realism shows that today clog most TV networks' prime times.
And I can remember only a few years back when The Nature Of Things approached its 50th season and there was talk deep in the corridors of power about dumping it for good simply because it was too expensive to run anymore.
Thankfully the regime proposing that wacky way to balance the budget has decamped and The Nature Of Things seems about the most iconic show left on the Corp (along with The National).
Gorilla Doctors is well of those well made nature docus that is solid in scientific data, excitingly shot and edited and tells a story that is riveting.
It was made by the Toronto team of film makers Bryn Hughes, David York (producers) and  co-director and writer Roberto Verdecchia and co-director and director of photography Michael Boland for 52 Media Inc.
Hero of their true story is the Peterborough born veternarian Mike Cranfield who tells us he was an aspiring vet student specializing in diary cows when he spent a summer as the resident at Peterborough's Riverside zoo. And all these years later he specializes in the care and feeding of mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uguanda.
There are about 800 mountain gorillas left and when Cranfield makes house calls he must do so in rugged mountain terrain .
The challenge is to guard against manmade diseases infecting the gorillas while trying to keep them as wild as possible.
We watch as the crew use dart guns to placate one dominant silverback who has been sick and stopped eating.
The question is: are these gorillas who have been vaccinated against disease still wild? In nature some would die anyway. What role should intervention play if any?
In this particular tribe the dominant gorilla has died after a neck infection. Can the next up --a 13-year old take over although maturity usually only comes at age 16 or later?
The hour also studies the civil wars in the Congo which keep impeding on the gorilla territory --game wardens are routinely killed by the soldiers or by poachers.
Having such a huge human population so near by exposes the animals to potential human diseases.
In one shocking scene six female gorillas are discovered killed by jungle Mafia types leaving two babies which must be cared by the wardens. And tests reveal they already carry the herpes virus.
Some solutions seem simple: the ton of human tourists should be encouraged to wear face masts, Cranfield suggests.
And there's the question of who should be deciding what is best for the gorillas.
Some naturalists like Martha Robbins clearly think the wardens are going too far in terms of intervention.
Shot as part mystery story, part jungle adventure Gorilla Doctors already emerges as one of the year's top documentaries --and TV's new season is just starting.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.

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