The Last Lions (2011)

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Director: Dereck Joubert
Narrator: Jeremy Irons

This film follows the story of the lioness Ma di Tau (“Mother of Lions”) and the challenges she faces, raising three cubs alone in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Hunted by the rival pride that drove her out of her territory and forced to hide her cubs close to a herd of dangerous water buffalo, it’s almost impossible for Ma di Tau to protect her young. In order to feed herself and her cubs, she must leave them unattended, vulnerable to the dangers surrounding them. While her story does see tragic loss and failure, it ends observing her success as a social predator and a mother.

I am actually very fond of wildlife documentaries and it’s really no surprise that I enjoyed this one. The cinematography is simply gorgeous and the storytelling is superb. I’m also already familiar with the works of husband and wife team, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. They have filmed several documentaries that focus on a particular story, rather than going with the more scientific and educational formula, and The Last Lions is no different. While I do adore the Attenborough type of documentary, this story had me more emotional than I was expecting.

As I’ve said, I’m no stranger to the genre. Growing up watching Wild Discovery and Animal Planet, (back when it was about animals) I’m well aware of the carnage and tragedy seen in nature films, especially ones involving apex predators such as lions. But the Jouberts managed to capture a scene so incredibly heartrending that it actually took me by surprise and I still find myself thinking about it. This can also be conflicting if you recognize the connection between the narrator and the subjects being filmed.  

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