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DVD Review

DVD cover

Playing in Savage Paradise


Universal Pictures UK
RRP: £4.99
Certificate: E
Available 09 March 2009

Journey through Africa’s most famous park, the Serengeti. From the unusual to the common, life on the great plain is portrayed with spectacular footage of birth, play, pursuit and defeat - all creating an intimate view of the animals living in this region of Africa. With breathtaking scenery accompanied by stirring music, it is an intimate view of different lives and life forms, covering wildlife ranging from the African hawk eagle to the zebra, this documents the idiosyncrasies of individuals to the behaviour of masses, as together they make up life on the Serengeti...

Playing in Savage Paradise is the UK dub of Hugo Van Lawick's 1998 Dutch movie Serengeti Symphony. The movie, as originally released, could be universally understood, so why it was altered for the UK market is beyond me. Lawick's vision was simple - provide no narration, instead letting the noises of the Serengeti mix with the orchestrated soundtrack. The results were beautiful. However, recut with a narration the movie loses a lot of it's charm.

Throughout this film we follow the various species that inhabit the Serengeti as they are born, eat, groom themselves and each other, make homes, migrate, hunt, mate, quarrel amongst their own kind, cope with the different weather conditions and sleep.

This is a beautiful movie, even with the rather poor narration (especially during the mating scenes - where we are informed that: "Birds do it, bees do it. Even educated fleas do it." Cole Porter would be turning in his grave. Of course, this could be a clever in joke - Lawick was a photographer on the 1974 movie Birds Do It, Bees Do It - but I doubt it.

It's an interesting brief introduction to some of the region's wildlife. If you want more on a specific animal then there are plenty of other documentaries out there that will appease you - this is a look at the Serengeti in general.

There is an extra in the form of My Backyard, the Serengeti (52 min, 34 sec) which looks at the making of Serengeti Symphony. We get to see the camera crew on location, as well as snippets of interviews with Lawick. It's also interesting, as at the close of this movie the camp that Lawick had lived in for years was being dismantled - so we get to see how he retrained all his staff so that they could find employment in the region once he left. He also explains how they were taking the camp down and planting grass seeds so that no one would even know they'd been there.

Great film - badly reworked for the UK market. But for £5 it's still well worth getting hold of.


Darren Rea

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