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Inside the Necessary Artifices of ‘The Hunt’ and Other Nature Documentaries

David Attenborough’s new BBC nature documentary The Hunt showcases the hunting rituals of a series of predators. As with all nature documentaries, the show uses a series of artifices–like sound effects, omitted scenes, and cutaways to different animals (sometimes in captivity)–to tell its story, something The Verge’s Elizabeth Lopatto explores in full.

“Facts are slippery things; they can render an inaccurate view if they are told in the wrong order, or if some are omitted,” she writes. “Narrative itself is a lie — whether it’s in documentary film, journalism, or any other medium that concerns itself with facts. We believe narrative exists because we travel forward continuously in time, and the chronological progression supplies humans, the meaning-making animals, with a kind of story. But every narrative leaves out facts in order to tell a clear story. In the case of The Hunt, obviously, there are the missing baboons, and the cut away from the kill. Less obviously, the stalk of the camera man and the sound effects. And even less obvious than that: some of the hunters don’t eat other animals as their primary food source. The chimpanzees who hunt monkeys, for instance, average about nine days of eating meat a year, according to Robb Dunn, writing in Scientific American. You would not know this watching The Hunt, simply because it is not relevant to the story the filmmakers are trying to tell. The point of The Hunt is the hunters’ tactics and strategies; whether the animals in question eat other food is beyond the scope of the documentary.”

Read the full story here.

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