You have two types of IMAX movies. The first are “specialty” films shot in the IMAX film format. These films are shorter than conventional films mostly due to the expense of shooting and distributing IMAX movies and the logistics involved in shooting them. These specialty films are typically about science and nature (EVEREST, ADVENTURES IN WILD CALIFORNIA, and SPACE STATION 3D). My first IMAX experience was seeing one of these films (SPEED) back in the 80s at the IMAX theater at Great America theme park. In the 2000s, Hollywood finally jumped on the IMAX band wagon with Disney’s release of FANTASIA 2000. I saw that at the IMAX theater at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco. Since that time, more and more conventional films have been appearing on the IMAX format to the point where on any given day, you can now find a major Hollywood release showing at your local IMAX screen. By the way, when I say your local IMAX screen, please be aware that the screens advertised as being IMAX at your local multiplex are in fact not true IMAX. Those screens are slightly larger than your conventional movie screen, but they are nowhere near the magnitude (nor do they have the sound system) that true IMAX has.

Anyway, going back to the subject of this blog post, BORN TO BE WILD was shot on the IMAX format and it was one of the films you would put in the first classification of IMAX films. Regrettably, I did not see this on IMAX like it was intended to be. Instead, I watched it on my little TV screen and tried my best to imagine how it appeared blown up on the side of a building. Not ideal, I know. However, as with any movie truly worth its measure, no matter what format it is seen in, BORN TO BE WILD is a compelling educational film that will move you and make you grateful that dedicated people still live in this world who will sacrifice everything to take care of this planet.

A nature documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman, BORN TO BE WILD is a short tale about orphaned elephants and orangutans. The orangutans in this film live in the rainforests of Borneo, where they are cared for by primatologist Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas. The elephants like in Kenya and they are cared for by Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick. The orangutans and elephants seen here are rescued from people who have destroyed their habitats and from poachers. The animals are eventually rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

I feel like I would be going to hell if I said anything critical about movies that educate their audiences about animal preservation because how could you possibly say anything mean (even if constructive) about movies that show cute and endangered animals? Thankfully, PETA won’t have to sharpen its knives and Google my home address because my only real criticism of this moving little tale is that it wasn’t long enough. At a brisk 45 minutes, BORN TO BE WILD is over before you even know it. I wanted to see more of the preservation efforts the two women have undertaken to care for these animals. Specifically, it would have been great to have seen the costs/funding involved in maintaining these wildlife refuges, the selection and training of the people who run these refuges and care for these animals, etc. Although this film is aimed for younger audiences, I wish the film also showed the effects of the horrible atrocities committed by poachers who kill elephants for their ivory tusks and those who destroy the rainforest habitats of orangutans. The film could have also benefited from spending more time with individual animals to allow the audience to connect with their personalities. This was done very effectively in THE PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL and, as a result, you the viewer become far more vested in the plight of the animals.

Not that I already wasn’t. In the short 45 minutes that I spent watching these cute animals, I quickly became emotionally drawn to the fate of the orangutans and elephants. I confess that I am passionately interested in animal and environmental conservation and I think it is every human being’s duty to preserve the wildlife and environments of this planet. So a movie such as BORN TO BE WILD didn’t need to do any convincing to commit me to its cause. However, I defy anyone to come away after watching this film and not feel any degree of compassion for the animals in this film and a respect for the two women who have committed their lives to caring for them.

The women featured in BORN TO BE WILD, Birute Mary Galdikas and Daphne Sheldrick, serve as adoptive mothers for the homeless and motherless young orangutans and elephants in the film. They have forsaken the conventional life paths that most women take in order to nurture these animals and eventually return them to the wild. You have to really admire the risks that these women put their lives in when you consider the dangerous people that the women protect their animals from and in countries that are less protective of independent women doing the type of work these women perform.

Even on a small screen, the cinematography in BORN TO BE WILD is eye-popping and I can only imagine how spectacular it must have looked in IMAX 3D. The film is full of lovely aerial views of exotic locales and close-ups of the animals. The film shuttles back and forth between Kenya and Borneo and offers brief glimpses of the conservationists tirelessly preparing their animals for re-entry into the wild. The film has sweet and tender moments as we see newly orphaned elephants and orangutans being cared for by the devoted native team of conservationists. Those are the most memorable scenes in the film where you see these animals long for their dead mothers and their caretakers take on the role of their deceased mothers. Its sad and beautiful to watch.

BORN TO BE WILD is a film that all young people should watch and its something they will be most certainly entertained by. The film could have benefited by being a full-length feature film instead of a short film. A deeper look at the women themselves and a greater insight into the various aspects of running their operations would have been very interesting. However, what we do get is satisfactory enough, especially when you have it all explained to you by Morgan Freeman’s commanding narration.

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