The Wild Connection – A Review By Jason Peters
7 October 2020
The Wild Connection, by husband and wife team Carter McCormick and Paula Sprenger, is a documentary that examines our relationship with wildlife. This artful exploration of some of America’s most incredible species promotes a deeper understanding of our link to the wild at a time when its future is uncertain.
Although they can seem far removed from our lives we have an innate connection to the animals we share the Earth with. The relationship between us is complex, ever changing, and unique to each species. The Wild Connection seeks to understand the link between us at a time when the future is uncertain.
It is an oft-said thing by those that are engaged with wildlife, in natural history or ecological circles, be they biologists, birders, conservationists or even mere film-makers, that we’ve lost our connection to the natural world. By “we”, we mean everyone else. Those city types, kids of today and the like ... Increasingly losing touch with nature. So, I was immediately invested in the idea behind this film. Can “we” reconnect?
This documentary aims to show us inadvertent connections at various sites across the USA ... Antelope Island, Utah, where herds of large mammals roam the mountainsides and grasslands and its shores are home to millions of animals but where the early impact of people on American wildlife is illustrated; Crystal River, on the Nature Coast of Florida, where species collide as the large populations of both humans and animals intersect, often with deadly but unintended consequences. There are great success stories but protected species are still under serious pressure, and not just from people, there are invasive species adding to that pressure exacerbated by climate change too; Palo Duro Canyon, located in the Texas Panhandle, is the second largest canyon in the United States. Its’ unique topography creates a climate that offers shelter to wildlife year round. Human-introduced invasive species are also a problem here and massive persecutions of rattlesnakes are unethical, whilst upsetting the balance too. The plight of turkeys and that of cattle, including their impact on the environment are shown ... One billion cows, in the US alone, are seriously contributing to global warming; Baxter, Maine, a testament to conservation that remains largely untouched, despite being a pristine wilderness the animals here are still affected by human activity miles away. An aquatic animal, a conservation success story, that shows the ecosystem is healthy and the surprisingly aquatic moose that is plagued by insects that are exploding in numbers further North due to climate change; Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, which may seem like a foreboding place, but is full of life. In the black waters of the Okefenokee nature is on full display. Charismatic keystone species are suffering due to hunting, loss of habitat and human development and alligators are impacted by climate change in surprising ways. Even more surprising interconnections link a woodpecker, pine trees and fire, or lack of it.
The cinematography is exceptional in this film, well edited and good flow with appealing graphics used to illustrate historical points and data. An appropriate use of music nicely balanced with natural sounds with a well-paced narration that helped to keep the attention, even though the film could’ve been shorter.
I found the film incredibly informative, with lots of things learnt about the animals and environments studied, not least the interconnectedness of threats to wildlife in the US and climate change. It felt like a well-researched film but the imparted knowledge was easily digested. I loved the inclusion of the segment on cattle, the cruelty injustices, exploited for meat and dairy products, but also their very significant negative impact on the environment. Not preachy, but part of a wider story including their auroch ancestors. Well done and I would very much like to see more of this kind of truth-telling in wildlife film-making.
The points made about the “wild connection” were immersed in the wider biology of the animals and ecosystems helping the viewer to understand the fuller context with ease. There’s still a chance for all of these animals and their ecosystems ... Our connection to the wild.
“We” need to remember our shared history, remember our relationship to the land and animals ... realize past mistakes and recognize what we are doing now. We have a chance to modify and reduce our impact as humans on the natural world ... i.e. live in a way mindful of our wild connection. I recommend that you watch this film, immerse yourself in the stories, understand the connections and then find your wild connection, not just to these stories, but in your local patch too. By “we”, I mean all of us.
Carter McCormick is from Rising Fawn, Georgia where he gained a deep love for wildlife. He began his filmmaking career in 2008 and his passion for film and conservation have taken him to wildernesses around the globe. Carter has collaborated with many prestigious research organizations, conservation groups, universities, and NGOs.
Paula Sprenger was born in Santiago, Chile and worked to achieve her dream of being a filmmaker since she was a child. Throughout her childhood Paula always had a camera in hand, and her career took a turn when she became successful in fashion photography and portraiture.
Eventually, when Carter and Paula met in college in 2015 they began working in film together. Two years after meeting the couple got married, and they set off in their RV to travel across the USA to film 'The Wild Connection'.
Today they live in Ireland where they continue to document wildlife. The two maintain their company Habitat Productions while Carter researches creating more impactful wildlife films for his PhD.
Statement from the Filmmakers:
Many wildlife films, though captivating, seldom impart knowledge in a way that can change how a viewer engages with the world around them. With The Wild Connection, we set out to create a film that was artful and entertaining but that also examined our relationship with wildlife in a way that promoted deeper understanding and empathy. Making this film we navigated sweltering heat waves off-grid in our RV, filled our wetsuits with hot water on cold winter mornings, walked rough terrain with heavy gear in search of wildlife, and faced a multitude of other obstacles. Despite all of the challenges of making a documentary (especially with only two people) every day in the field or working from home was a labor of love. Making this film only furthered our love for the land, plants, and animals we share this planet with and we hope that you share that love when watching our film.
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