The Last Lions

After viewing scores of documentaries, I can safely say that I have NEVER encountered a better narrator, Jeremy Irons is perfection: deliberate, elegant and precise. Every word is mounted like a precious gem.

This National Geographic screening, sponsored by Seattle International Film Festival, featured filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert for a question and answer period afterwards about their adventures shooting this wrenching wildlife documentary in Botswana.

Amazingly filmed and masterfully edited by wildlife specialists, we follow the trials and tribulations of a lone lioness (we see her mate die), as she tries to elude a migrating pride of lions who in turn are in flight from encroaching human development. She flees the marauders, knowing they will kill her three cubs, as lions always destroy any babies who are not of their own gene pool.

She has to confront natural enemies: a river, a fire, an aggressive herd of cape buffalo, lurking crocodiles, a hippopotamus and that pesky pride, all the while keeping her three little ones alive.

You may be sure this is a real wildlife documentary, with real blood, real life-or-death battles and real parent/offspring struggles and heartbreak. Mother Nature is a harsh mistress, despite Walt Disney's portrayal of animals in the wild. Although I found some of the narrative a little too anthropomorphic, it still helped convey the story and point up the central issue: Fifty years ago, Africa boasted a population of almost half a million lions, today that number has been reduced to about twenty thousand doughty survivors.

Bring tissues.....