i knew i bought an HDTV for something.
the new Discovery/BBC series Planet Earth is stunning. Elaine and I have only watched one show (Pole to Pole), and we’re hooked. the show is an unparalleled visual exploration of our planet, one that exposes things never seen, especially not in the high-definition format in which it’s presented.
yeah yeah yeah…HD schmaitch-D. another documentary about the glories of Mother Earth? haven’t we been there and done that? about a hundred times?
yes, we have, but that doesn’t diminish from the power or the importance of viewing. Elaine and I have yet to see the whole series, but in times when all seems dire and dour in the news, it’s nice to take a step back and look at the thing that nurtures and sustains us – our world. other recent documentaries have brought our relationship to the world into a different perspective; an inconvenient truth is an obvious (and probably over-cited) example. with this new (or refocused) perspective, i think our world bears revisiting in the less-gloomy documentary sense.
in the first episode of planet earth, we are taken on a tour of the world, from top to bottom, pole to pole, looking at how the sun affects ecosystems and life on the planet, how it is ultimately the engine that gives everything on this rock strength. in this one episode, they managed to show about 5 different things that i’d never seen before in documentary footage. everything from very-high-altitude time-lapse photography, to aerial explorations of a wild-dog hunt in Africa – it was jaw-dropping for us.
Baraka is the clearest reference point for me, although i think the narrative structure of Baraka leads to different feelings, different conclusions. this is more about the Earth without us, not in relation to us. it is about Nature with a capital N, from bitter cold to scorching heat, from abundance of life to desolate wasteland. it is also about the pure struggle for survival that most of us (in the Western world, at least), conveniently forget.
for me, shows like planet earth try to erase our myopia, our preoccupation with everything human, everything here, everything now. they try to give us a wider view, a way of seeing our tiny tragedies and victories in the mirror of the vast world that surrounds us. we would do well to pay attention.