Need an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, but can’t travel to get close to nature? Well, go on a journey through the Chinese wilderness with Disneynature’s latest documentary, Born in China.
Directed by renowned filmmaker Lu Chuan and produced by acclaimed Disney storyteller Roy Conli and nature filmmakers Brian Leith and Phil Chapman, Born In China follows the stories of three animal families as they struggle, play, and grow amid landscapes that are equal parts stunning and hostile.
Born In China isn’t your regular nature documentary. Narrated by John Krasinski (yes, that’s Jim Halpert from The Office), the film is full of character and comical moments, truly bringing out the unique personality of each creature. Disney has established itself as a master of telling engaging stories and has made no exception with Born In China. The animal protagonists are uncannily human-like in their emotions and reactions; the audience can’t help but get completely swept up in their adventures.
Dawa, a snow leopard, is a fearsome predator, but also a loving mother to two baby cubs. She is queen of her terrain on the mountain plateau – until rival leopards drive her out of her own territory. With two defenceless (and hungry) cubs, Dawa struggles to protect her displaced family in a harsh, unforgiving environment.
Meanwhile, Tao Tao, a two-year-old golden snub-nosed monkey, has his life turned upside down when his family begins showering all their attention on his new baby sister. Young, angry, and rebellious, Tao Tao joins a ragtag group of free-spirited young males, dubbed ‘the Lost Boys’.
A first-time panda mother, Ya Ya, loves doting over her child, an adorable ball of fluff named Mei Mei. While Mei Mei begins to explore and assert her independence, Ya Ya can’t help but feel conflicted about having to let her go.
We also get to follow wild chiru on their grand journey en route to the legendary Zhuonai Lake in the northeastern part of the Qinghai Plateau. It is tradition for female chiru to make this pilgrimage to give birth by the side of the majestic lake. Why exactly, no one really knows. The endangered chiru – fewer than 75,000 remain on the planet – are clearly a soft spot for director Lu Chuan, who was inspired to make his award-winning film, 2004’s Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, about volunteers’ efforts to protect the animals.
Stories aside, the visuals in Born In China are nothing short of majestic, and one can’t help but marvel at the effort and passion that must have gone into capturing the shots. The production team spent three years braving hailstorms and volatile weather, venturing to the most remote and challenging landscapes to create the film. They even dressed up in ‘panda suits’ – black and white garments made to look and smell like pandas – in order to capture intimate shots of the mother panda and her cub.
Perhaps the most amazing of all is the film’s peek into the lives of the strikingly beautiful snow leopards – creatures so notoriously elusive that the team admits it had seemed unimaginable to feature them at all.
Of course, in true Disney fashion, the film begins and ends with the mythos of the circle of life. Says producer Roy Conli: “Each story depicts a reality of life that is reflective of our own human experience. It’s compelling to see how animals share certain values that we hold dear.”
Born In China is now showing exclusively at Cathay Cineplexes.