White Lion



Poignant story blends gorgeous footage with mild peril.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This film teaches kids about respect for the sacredness of life and value of animals. The risk to lions in the wild due to human encroachment is also clear. Persistence and acceptance are other themes.

Positive role models

Even though he is always cast as an outsider due to his color, and repeatedly faces challenges and obstacles that would make anyone give up, Letsatsi the lion is determined to prevail. His journey from cub to lion gives him the strength of character to represent his legacy. Meanwhile, a young man, entrusted by his father to protect the lion, is loyal to Letsatsi to the end and helps establish a wildlife sanctuary.


Animal carcasses are often shown, sometimes with other animals feeding on them. In one scene, there's a close up on two lions eating an impala, with blood showing on their faces. The main character loses his brother to a snake, and later, his best friend is shot by a hunter after being caught in a trap. There are scenes of peril and suspense, including a forest fire. Animals fight. Hunters search for the white lion; there are guns and shooting.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Brief smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film -- which includes magnificent close-ups of animals in their natural habitat -- also shows the kind of vicious brutality that it takes for animals to survive. Animal carcasses, chases, and killing are frequently on screen. The main human character deals with parental separation, loneliness, hunger, and death -- issues that will be difficult for younger kids to handle. But by investing so much time in these lions, the film achieves its purpose of educating viewers about the single biggest problem they face: human encroachment.

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What's the story?

In a remote African valley, young Gisani grew up listening to his chieftain father tell him about the Shangaan legend of white lions, purported to be messengers of the gods. Nobody has seen one for years when he comes across a white lion cub in the wilderness. Gisani knows it is his destiny to protect it, as this will ensure his village's safety as well. He takes a job as a tracker for a hunter, while keeping watch on the lion he names Letsatsi. The young lion -- an outsider because of his color -- faces many obstacles as he struggles to survive, and his journey into an adult lion isn't complete until he faces down his ultimate enemy: the trophy hunter.

Is it any good?


This award-winning film -- which took four years to make and was shot on location in South Africa -- stars up to 60 wild lions. This intimate look at the lions and their habitat is fascinating to watch. Other animals indigenous to Africa are also remarkably captured. It's like going on safari from the comfort of the living room.

But it's not all sweeping vistas and butterflies. There are scary and graphic moments that may make this movie difficult for kids. Young ones could also get impatient with the slow pace. The point is to show that these animals live in what should be a peaceful world, but is one increasingly threatened by humans. Letsatsi's journey helps drive the point home; with everything coming together poignantly at the end.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about violence in films. What's seen in this movie is real and many times, necessary. How does this compare with violence or gore in other films?

  • How do you think this movie will impact the lions? What effect does the media play in how some cultures are changing?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 19, 2010
DVD release date:February 15, 2011
Cast:Jamie Bartlett, John Kani, Thabo Malema
Director:Michael Swan
Studio:Peru Productions
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Wild animals
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some mild action and brief smoking

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old July 2, 2011

White Lion

This movie was pretty good. I think it is iffy for 6 because kids need to know what these animals do in the wild and how people hunt them.


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