May 16, 2024
Peter Calder

Changing the Nature Documentary: "Living With Leopards" (2 minute read)

"Living with Leopards," Netflix's latest nature documentary, offers a unique perspective. It chronicles the journey of a leopard family from infancy to adulthood, providing a captivating one-hour viewing experience. 

Unlike typical nature documentaries, such as Planet Earth, it not only offers an in-depth observation of the  animals around us but also showcases the crew's role in the film, enhancing the sense of realism. The stunning visuals and music further elevate the viewing experience.  

"Planet Earth" comes to mind when thinking of nature documents. There are lots of great, incredible angles to watching animals live their lives, usually with a narrator explaining what is going on. 

Where "Living with Leopards" stood out was utilizing the crew in the film, showing what they were doing while they captured the footage, and seeing their reactions; it really helped to bring an element of humanity into the film. 

Also, this technique brought it down to Earth. Many times, when you see a stunning nature film, it looks like, and feels like, you're being transported to another world, but including the crew members gives the viewer a reminder that this is, in fact, all happening in our world, and it's not so far away. Using crew or the filmmaker in the documentary is nothing new; Ai Weiwei was very present on screen in his film "Human Flow," and of course, Michael Moore is in many of his works. However, choosing to do this in a nature documentary brings a nice layer of intimacy to the film while also bringing reality to it as well.  

Early on, it was quite evident what equipment they were using to film the film; it even made me think that maybe RED sponsored the film because their logos and insignia were so present.  Each year, like many other fields, technology in film and TV grows, and the tools get better and better. 

"Living with Leopards" is a great representation of that. The shots they were able to get with the cameras and lenses were so close and sharp that it made you feel right there in the moment. Also, with movement being a big part, utilizing some incredible slow motion gave a unique look at the series of events unfolding for the leopards. 

In a world where it is usually very hard to get close to animals living in the wild, longer lenses and more advanced camera systems that enable you to get closer and more present are moving, and I'm looking forward to seeing what follows in this specific genre of documentary. 

Lastly, the music was very interesting. In most nature films or TV, the music is filled with subtle tones and adapts to what's going on in the wild; it's usually ambient and has little to no vocals. "Living with Leopards" changed this sort of stereotype of the genre; they chose to use different music, and popular tracks with vocals from Indie, Rock, and R&B genres were a refreshing way of consuming the film. 

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