WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
On March 3rd, our latest film Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale was released on Netflix. Set here in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, this film has been a labour of love for over two-years – much of which was dominated by a global pandemic. From the devastating drought of 2019 that saw the Delta turn to dust, to the fantastic flood of 2020 and the epic rainfall of 2021 that brought it back to life, Surviving Paradise celebrates the Okavango in all its glory and diversity.
Regé-Jean Page, star of Netflix's Bridgerton, narrates Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale. Image property of Netflix.
If you haven’t been persuaded to watch it yet, then perhaps these reviews will do the trick (if you don’t want to risk any spoiler alerts, then I suggest you put on the popcorn and get watching!)
STREAM OR SKIP IT? With Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page’s soothing narration that rivals that of nature documentary maestro David Attenborough, Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale is a visual feast of stunning cinematography with astonishing closeups, revealing the beauty of this natural landscape and the animals that inhabit it. Don’t let the title of this new on Netflix documentary fool you into thinking it’s a Disney-fied affair. It doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of nature with one particularly upsetting scene, but then life for the animals living on the Okavango Delta can be brutal and sometimes very short.
Keep an eye out for our future behind-the-scenes blog with Gaokgonwe Seetsele Nthomiwa, cinematographer at the NHFU and assistant camera on Surviving Paradise. NHFU/Hannah Gormley.
THE UPCOMING With their rich cinematic resources, the filmmakers capture and craft a magnificent kaleidoscope of images across the plains of the Okavango delta, showcasing a beauty under threat of an exacerbated dry season, whilst also homing in on the domesticity of big cats, giraffes and other resident creatures. It all circles back to the importance of family (hence the title) and a circular process of survival. Sometimes the film wavers as it tries to focus on both the macro and the micro – there are multiple ideas within the fields of animal biology, sustainability and global warming here that really could be their own documentaries – but, ultimately, it’s a wondrous and moving impression of an arid ecosystem that should be protected at all costs.
Hannah Gormley drives ShotOver operator and NHFU founder, Brad Bestelink, through a cloud of locusts. Image property of Netflix (NHFU/Liz Johnston).
READY STEADY CUT In the era of climate change, this equilibrium of nature with its inhabitants is disrupting. So, the bonding between them has to be tight, in every family, in every tribe to survive. And these animals are doing exactly like that. In sun, in rain, in any situation, they are together for each other to help. At the time, the world is getting divided in the harshest of times, we should take a look at these animals to realize the strength of being together and do our part to restore the equilibrium. This core message is exquisitely delivered by the narrator Rege-Jean Page. Some great breathtaking visuals give you the visual pleasure equal to any big-budget epic Hollywood production.
Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale follows the extraordinary tale of some of Africa's most iconic predators. Image property of Netflix (NHFU/Hannah Gormley).
DECIDER Our Call: STREAM IT. Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale scratches every nature documentary itch you might have, from cute overload baby animals to the vicious beauty of predators at work. The familial bent of Surviving Paradise is interesting, but there’s visceral predation here, too. Left to fend for herself, the lioness is not without tools. She corners three wildebeest and zigs when they expect her to zag, freeing one of the hooved ungulates from its mates; we watch as she launches into its midsection at speed and executes a tackle, her immense paws grappling at the animal’s neck as it’s pulled into the frenzied dust.
Dinner, as they say, is served. The direction and camerawork in Paradise is also excellent, whether it’s capturing every action within the lioness’s takedown, detailing on the long beaks and dainty legs of pied kingfishers and openbill storks as they extricate snails from the muddy water, or employing drones to survey the scope of the Okavango as it transitions from drought-choked desert to lush oasis and back again to superheated dust bowl.
Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale follows the extraordinary tale of some of Africa's most iconic predators. Image property of Netflix (NHFU/William Steele).
BUTWHYTHO Where the film truly peaks, however, is through the cinematography, and the entire concept of what’s being captured. Watching the film, it’s astounding to even fathom the investment in time it took to follow the film’s chosen animals and simply observe them in their habitat. Even then, Godfrey and Meech had to then condense all of that footage down in order for the film to find its voice.
Whether it was obvious that was conceived from the start, or it happened organically through the editing process, I’ll never know, but regardless, the end result truly sings on screen... The documentary is beautifully shot, and the direction of events is so meticulously conceived it even presents as a powerfully evocative story, rather than simply observing nature in its rawest form.
Surviving Paradise is now on Netflix - check it out!
Image property of Netflix.
It has been the NHFU’s honour and privilege to bring Surviving Paradise to the world’s screens, and the reason couldn’t be more important. Our wilderness is fast disappearing, and the Okavango Delta is one of the last true areas on earth where it remains intact. Climate change threatens this all, and it is up to every single individual on the planet to save it for generations to come.
In the words of Sir David Attenborough ‘no one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they’ve never experienced’. We hope that this film bridges that gap to bring these families, and the uncertain future they face, to the forefront of our audience’s mind and encourage each and every one of them to make what difference they can for the sake of the Okavango and its extraordinary animals.
Blog written by Hannah Gormley. Reviews have been shared from external sources (links attached).