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‘Born in China’ (review)

Produced by Roy Conli,
Brian Leith, Phil Chapman

Screenplay by David Fowler, Brian Leith,
Phil Chapman, Lu Chuan

Directed by Lu Chuan
Narrated by John Krasinski


Released in time for Earth Day, Born in China is the latest addition to the Disneynature’s True Life Adventure series.

This is not your standard nature documentary, rather it is a series of slice of life vignettes. The focus is to connect audiences on a personal level with these wild animals, so that viewers are invested in the animals’ future long after the film is over.

Narration by The Office’s John Krasinski is light and humorous, and beautifully supports the writing that works to draw parallels in our everyday human lives with the lives of the film’s subjects.

Shot in the diverse regions that China has to offer, the film Born in China follows four animal families.

Dawa, the Snow Leopard, fight’s to maintain her territory and provide for her young cubs, not unlike the plight of most single moms. Tao Tao is an adolescent snub-nosed golden monkey dealing with feeling of displacement in the family due to the birth of a younger sibling. Ya Ya the Panda’s story is not unlike many mother’s struggle to let go of a child as it learns to become a self sufficient adult.  Only the story of the Chiru, the Tibetan Antelope, feels like a Discovery Channel show.  The narrations subtle tongue in cheek humor is a gift for the adults while the kids laugh at the funny animals.

The cinematography is exactly what you would expect from a large budget documentary, simply breathtaking.  The film is brimming with beautiful vistas, stunning macro shots, and memorizing time lapse photography.  Director Chuan Lu has gathered a talented crew of nature cinematographers who have pieced together a beautiful collection of stories.  The photography displays both the beauty and dangers of the remote landscapes.  Because we are following living animals, not all the stories end well. The brutality is handled in a truthful nature with sensitivity towards young viewers. It is a film that you may have to have some conversations with your children afterward about the cycle of life, but won’t have them crying in their seats during the film.

While this type of nature film will never be the blockbuster that their animated cousins are, it is heartening that Disney will still back and distribute these kinds of films. It is films like Born in China that plant the seed for young, impressionable audience to see the world in a larger view.  It is also laudable that Disney will donate a portion of the the opening weekend proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund for the benefit of Snow Leopards and Pandas.

So, celebrate Earth Day with a few new families.


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