Life, the nature documentary show by BBC, was shot entirely in high definition and gives viewers an absolutely astounding view of nature up close. The BBC series ran from October to December 2009 and now Discovery Channel has brought it to the United States. The series consists of ten 50 minute episodes, each with its own theme of animals. The US is late compared to other countries in showing this series, as it has already been shown in Canada and Latin America. This is the fifth week of episodes featuring “Plants” and “Primates,” each 50 minutes long and full of amazing video clips of interesting creatures. Each episode is narrated by the famous Oprah.
Life is rumored to have been given the largest budget of any previous documentary: 10 million pounds (or at its current conversion, 15.29 million US dollars). The first year of production for the film involved researching places that the camera crew could shoot and what animals would be interesting to observe. Then, the crew spent the next three years doing over one hundred and fifty shoots on all seven continents. The use of new filming techniques and technologies such as the ability to make steady shots from moving vehicles and use high speed cameras helped to create amazing results for the crew.
Taking a different direction from the other episodes, this one focuses on amazing plants that share our planet with us. On a forest floor, time lapse video shows ivies climbing ever upwards in order to get access to much needed light. Epiphytes, a kind of plant that grows on other plants, grow in the tall branches of trees, trapping water and falling leaves which they decompose into essential nutrients. Sundew traps and venus flytraps take a radically different approach to their nutrient needs: they capture and digest insects. Some plants manage to survive in extreme environments. Dragon’s blood trees on the arid islands of Socotra survive by capturing the moisture from fog while coastal mangrove trees filter salt from sea water in order to fulfill their water needs. Bristlecone Pines in North American mountains can live for 5,000 years, making them the oldest living things on Earth. Grasses are the most successful plants in the world; there are over 10,000 varieties. The two most populous ones are ones that we grow: rice and wheat.
Primates remind humans of ourselves so our fascination for our cousins will never cease. In Japan, macaques who endure temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius, only allow macaques from certain bloodlines to use the hot spring water in the winter months. The others are left out in the cold. The silverbacked gorilla uses primal calls and chest beating to mark his territory. The silver hair on his back appears after a certain age to mark him as the dominant, mature male. In the rainforest of Thailand, lar gibbons sing songs to demonstrate sexual connection. In South Africa, chacma baboons search through kelp beds for nutritious meals from the sea while the capuchins of Costa Rica collect clams and beat them against rocks to tire out the muscles keeping the shell tightly closed.
This is the final night of new Life episodes and a great conclusion. I would highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys nature programs.