Nature docu has stunning visuals, positive messages, peril.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the nature documentary Elephant is appropriate for all ages, but some viewers may find it a little slow-going. The filmmakers confront that by introducing new dangers for the elephants, creating moments of suspense throughout the film. These scenes include possible drowning, predators like lions and hyenas, a baby elephant with his head stuck in the mud, and more. Some could be scary/upsetting for certain viewers, especially when the youngest elephants are put at risk. But the elephants always come through the scares intact until near the end of the film, when one matriarch dies of old age. It's a tender scene as the herd gathers around her and feels for her last breath with their trunks, covering her eyes with her ear when she's finally gone. Some viewers, though, may feel uneasy knowing that her body will likely be attacked by surrounding lions as soon as the herd moves on. Likewise, narrator Meghan Markle makes clear that while this herd has survived its perilous journey, not all do.
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What's the Story?
ELEPHANT follows a herd of African elephants, led by matriarchs Gaia and Shani and Shani's mischievous 1-year-old son, Jomo, as they take a 1,000-mile, 8-month round-trip journey across the Kalahari Desert. Gaia and Shani rely on their memories of past travels to navigate the safest routes across ancient worn paths and toward essential watering holes. Few elephant herds remain in the wild to roam such vast distances. Along their route, they encounter a myriad of animals, including some predators, and other dangers. All the while, the matriarchs look out for their family members and protect each other. Meghan Markle narrates.
Is It Any Good?
This documentary's calming message of solidarity is always relevant. And is there a sweeter yet tougher animal in the world? Elephant suggests not. "Social life is like oxygen for these animals," we're told by narrator Markle, who's a fitting proxy for this matriarchal herd. "For elephants, family is everything," and their emotional bonds "are as strong and long-lasting as our own."
The documentary follows a template employed by other nature documentaries of infusing some of the starring animals with names and personalities. In this case, the matriarch sisters Gaia and Shani, who rely on ancient wisdom and enduring memories to lead their herd, and Shani's mischief-making toddler Jomo. Elephant also keeps our attention by throwing the herd increasingly treacherous obstacles about every 10 minutes of screen time, from sticky mud to roaring rapids to hungry lions and hyenas. The stunning photography of the Kalahari Desert and Victoria Falls is complemented by a stirring soundtrack of African music.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why there are so few elephant herds left in the wild. What do you think has happened to them?
The elephants found themselves in many dangerous situations. Which seemed the most threatening to you? Why?
How are elephants similar to humans? How are they different?
What were some facts you learned about elephants? How could you learn more?
- On DVD or streaming: April 3, 2020
- Cast: Meghan Markle
- Director: Mark Linfield
- Studio: Disneynature
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Adventures, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 27, 2022
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