Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘The Last Animals’

Posted in Hot Docs 2017, Movies by - May 10, 2017
Hot Docs 2017: Our Review of ‘The Last Animals’

Bookended by ominous narration and saturated with images that seem to alternate between the majestic and the horrific, The Last Animals is potent, well-polished documentary tackling the epidemic of the ivory trade.

War photojournalist Kate Brooks turns to a different kind of battles – that among poachers and those taken to protect endangered rhinoceroses and elephants. The ivory trade, as Brooks explains, is banned in some parts of the world and allowed elsewhere, with a few getting rich while animals and people die. Those that deal in ivory also dabble in guns, drugs, and terrorism, an important point Brooks touches on throughout.

This comprehensive film, which follows Garamba National Park rangers in Congo, a forensic scientist and his team in Oregon, and some undercover investigations, is staggering and tragic. Its laser focus and rapid globe trotting keep the viewer captivated. And those aforementioned images: they feature beautiful creatures in one moment, and the massacred beasts in another.

Brooks knows the power of such imagery – one of the first shots of the film is a baby rhino frolicking in a sanctuary after losing her mother to poachers. In a much more harrowing sequence, Brooks and her team follow the aftermath of a clash between armed rangers and poachers, that leave several of the latter camp maimed. Later on, the rangers aren’t so lucky.

There are politics and leadership too, and in 90 minutes Brooks covers a lot of ground, which elicits tears, fears, and hopes. Her argument is powerful, and the effects long lasting.

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