This film documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them — saving endangered species one life at a time. An adventure transporting moviegoers into the lush rainforests of Borneo with world-renowned primatologist Dr. Birute Galdikas, and across the rugged Kenyan savannah with celebrated elephant authority Dame Daphne Sheldrick, as they and their team rescue, rehabilitate and return these incredible animals back to the wild. 

Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

One of the very best examples of the nature documentary genre.

The delightful antics of baby orangutans and toddler elephants can turn grown men into giggling schoolgirls when sourced on YouTube and watched on your mobile phone. So imagine the smile-inducing impact of a sudsy ape taking a bath projected across the 1,015 square metres of an IMAX screen and you get some idea of the joy to be had watching David Lickley’s Born to Be Wild 3D.

Playful pre-teen pachyderms kicking soccer balls and cheeky orangutan infants guzzling milk bottles are not the raison d’etre for Lickley’s film, though such moments make the truncated running time (40 minutes; no pun intended) zip by.

The production’s focus is on two wonderful women on either side of the Indian Ocean: In Kenya, Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick has created a sanctuary for the young calves who have been orphaned by ivory hunters; and in a vast compound in the rainforests of Borneo, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas tends to the baby apes who mothers have died, along with their over-logged habitats.

Honouring the spirit and groundbreaking work of the legendary Joy and George Adamson, whose rearing of the lioness Elsa was dramatised in James Hill’s hugely popular 1966 film Born Free, Sheldrick and Galdikas are filmed as they prepare, with the aid of their Indigenous staff, for their respective broods to be returned to the wild. (Tears are shed during the film’s finale, to be sure.) Editor Beth Spiegel determinedly plays down any false-note anthropomorphosising, but so expressive are the ape’s faces and so engagingly vibrant are elephants at play that one gets the feeling that Lickley’s direction amounted to making sure he and his crew were in the right place at the right time.

The cross-continent settings clearly energised director of photography David Douglas, whose coverage within the vast IMAX frame and spectacular usage of the 3D technology makes Born to Be Wild one of the very best examples of the nature documentary genre.

Lickley and Douglas don’t play cute too often, though kids will appreciate the inevitable elephant trunks in the face and googly-eyed orangutan close-ups. The film is perfect school holiday fare, with little time spent on the harsher realities of what happens to most orphan animal babies once alone in the wild. The only sequence that may cause distress is the rounding up of an abandoned elephant calf that is seeking shelter with the alpha bulls and, deprived of milk, slowly starving to death; parents should be prepared to dish out some of life’s tougher realities on the drive home, when the 'Daddy, what’s a poacher?" questions will invariably arise.

Distributed by Warner Bros. as part of the studio’s recently announced 20-picture output deal with the IMAX corporation, Born to Be Wild is immeasurably enhanced by the warm blanket narration of the great Morgan Freeman. Having provided vocal comfort for 200 Emperor penguins in 2005’s March of the Penguins, Freeman is now well-established as the animal kingdom’s preferred narrator; one nods in agreement when his silky vocalisation accompanies a newly-released tree-swinger, whose freedom in the jungle setting ' its...destiny." Freeman’s involvement serves to emphasise what a particularly classy production Lickley’s film is in every regard.


41 min
In Cinemas 08 April 2011,