On Earth Day, theatres will be offering something a little more authentic than the usual batch of Hollywood blockbusters – and that’s a good thing according to the directing duo of African Cats.
“Artifice is at the heart of so much of cinema but I think people still yearn for reality,” said Keith Scholey, co-director of the Disneynature documentary. “We didn’t want to make a TV-type nature documentary that was teaching you something; we wanted to really engage people emotionally in the characters…but I think the fact that it’s absolutely real and absolutely happened is very important.”
A beautifully-shot film that focuses its lens on a struggling pride of lions as well as a cheetah and her five newborn cubs, African Cats uncovers a struggle for power and the type of family loyalty you’d more likely expect from a Shakespearean drama.
“We’ve always known that (about) the natural lives of especially lions,” said co-director Alastair Fothergill, insisting there was inherent risk in taking 2 ½ years to watch the drama unfold. “The most daunting part is thinking have you (picked) the right characters and also if you’ve got the right characters but then it goes so badly wrong – like if Sita (the cheetah) had lost all her cubs…what happens then?”
Lucky for the filmmakers however, serendipity prevailed. Now as the film sets for release, Disneynature will donate a portion of box-office proceeds to the African Wildlife Foundation during the movie’s opening week. While that may help ensure the future of Savanna wildlife, Fothergill and Scholey hope African Cats affects its audiences even more.
“If enough people have a sense of value for lions and cheetahs,” said Fothergill. “Then actions will follow.”