Hidden Kingdoms: Under Open Skies

“Little guys don’t always finish last, and heroes come in all sizes.”

Hidden Kingdoms

Hidden Kingdoms is the latest Wildlife Documentary, using The Latest Technology (don’t they always?) to capture the stories of the very small. In the first of the series, Under Open Skies, two young mice, one from the African savannah, the other from an American desert, leave home for the first time and meet all the dangers of Real Life.

I should reiterate at this point that this is a documentary. Allegedly.

There’s no doubt the cinematography of Hidden Kingdoms is beautiful. It’s otherworldly in its colour and its detail: the rusting truck under starry desert skies, the mountainous termite nest with a Hidden Occupant, the flood of water after rain, the fire in the grass. Truly, Hidden Kingdoms could be a fantasy film set upon another world…

…and therein lies the problem. It’s so caught up in telling neat little fairy-tales about its protagonists (the Lucky Escape, the Intrepid Explorer, the Underdog Who Wins) that it veers into anthropomorphism. I don’t feel like Hidden Kingdoms really taught me anything about the often-overlooked animals it follows: it seems like it tells us more about ourselves than about the elephant shrew or the grasshopper mouse. We tell stories about small creatures overcoming dragons (well, scorpions and monitor lizards) because that’s what humans do, and that’s okay. Just so long as we don’t pretend (as Hidden Kingdoms does) that those stories are anything other than fantasy.

I will be watching more, though. It’s too pretty, and too charming, to miss. Also I’m letting it off a bit because it included a “making of” style segment at the end revealing that, in fact, the story wasn’t perhaps as accurate as it seemed.

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