At the ripe age of 86, it’s safe to believe that David Attenborough has probably seen more of the world than any budding tourist or explorer. Nevertheless, the man with that comforting and familiar “grandfatherly” voice is relentless and is still creating vivid documentaries such as Blue Planet, The Galapagos Islands and most recently his new six part series, Africa.
Personally nothing beats the start to the new term than watching animals trying not to get eaten, which, to be honest, puts things in to perspective when lounging in the student microcosm and considering whether or not to go to that Philosophy lecture on Rousseau.
With only his voice to guide us, Attenborough takes us around the immense geography of Africa, from the scorched Kalahari desert to the deep and cavernous jungles of the Congo. As with any of his previous series, the intent here is to entertain as well as educate; we are taken on a thrilling jump into nature’s lost Eden. Each episode focuses on different landscapes upon the vast continent and aims to provide a more personal approach to nature.
The dramatic and personal way in which the series is documented is shown through the subtle and unique acts of different animals trying to survive in the continent. On one hand we witness the incredible footage of blind catfish competing for food in an underground chasm; but on the other hand we are made to suffer an emotional rollercoaster, watching the death of a baby elephant whilst its family undertakes a fierce pilgrimage across the parched African plains. Nevertheless, the most outstanding feature of the programme is without doubt the painstaking camerawork. The sheer range of colour and spectacle is a feast for the senses, and the occasional slow-motion segment truly brings the flora and fauna of Africa to life.
The sheer detail and technology of the camerawork is counterbalanced by Attenborough’s humble, yet often humorous narrative. This is especially evident when we pay witness to a female rhino pretending to be asleep in order to avoid the sexual advances of her adolescent male counterpart. Maybe students aren’t so different from animals after all…
However, joking aside, Attenborough’s achievement here is magnificent. Africa holds some incredible natural treasures, from a severely brutal giraffe duel to a rare rhino gathering under an impeccable starlit sky. It’s no wonder that the series took four years to shoot with over 79 filming expeditions in 27 different countries.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t spare a few extra words for the man behind it all. It is unlikely that Attenborough will ever make another nature documentary of the same scope as Africa. He is truly at his best here and the ageing veteran demonstrates that he is still the true maestro of the nature documentary. Bravo, David.