I always find it very fascinating to get a glimpse of how a film was created and what thought process was involved, and even more so with Chimpanzee! During the movie several times I wondered many things about what really went on behind scenes, like how did they find this one chimpanzee, Oscar, and how did they know to follow him? Did Isha really die? Did they really almost just sit by and let Oscar die and why didn’t they help him or did they? I was perturbed at the movie camera as I often get when I see documented struggling of another creature, but I am so glad I was able to get the answers to all of these questions.
From the very beginning, they did not plan for Isha to die, which she did, and when she did Alastair Fothergill & Mark Linfield were rather concerned even phoning Disney to let them know that they did not have a movie with a happy ending. Thank goodness there was a classic Disney spin and even as I am writing this thinking of Disney magic and how Tinkerbell’s fairy dust travels far and wide to make dreams come true. Poor Oscar could not be left under the large arms of Disney – something fantastic and wonderful had to happen, and happen it did while creating one of the most touching and well-documented true animal stories produced. Of course, it came from Disney!
Think about it – a love story and perfect bond between a mother and son captured on film while taking you step by step drawing you in making you want them to make it; the mother dies. Ugh! How could the camera crew just sit there and watch that happen? Why didn’t they interfere? They could have saved Isha’s life right? Wrong. The scientists have been working with these Chimpanzee’s for 30 years. They could not upset the balance of Nature. They even had to wear masks to keep from giving the chimpanzees diseases. Humans are more dangerous with our germs than the jungle and had to stay 7 meters away at all times! They were miles from civilization and had to walk hours to even reach where the chimps were. It would have been a very dangerous situation. When I was thinking camera crew, I was thinking tons and tons of people like a typical movie set, but this is not the case with nature movies. Often there was only a few people armed only with cameras, so they had to let nature unfold as it would. Fortunately for the directors, the chimps did not read the script and let life write the screen play providing a “lovely story, because males are such macho guys.” Who would have thought the alpha male would have adopted the weakest? “It was a dream come true for us filmmakers.”
I had to ask, “Before he was adopted, how hard was it for you and the crew not to step in and help Oscar?” During the movie this is all I wanted to know, why, how could they just watch this and not help.
Mark answered, “You’re not the first person to ask that, and it’s really tough to see the little guy kind of struggling.” I was so happy to hear Mark continue on, “I could just rush in and give him a sandwich, just help him out, just get him through the next day” He further went on to explain how you have to just sit back, observe, and bring the true story back home with you. “But of course, secretly you’re rooting for someone to — you know, to find someone to help him out; but as you saw from the film, all the other females had young”
Oscar’s odds were looking so bad and then magically, Freddy stepped in. Allistair chimed in, “But, he was very week. That final shot, where the film’s saying maybe rivals have killed more than one animal this time” — was two weeks before the adoption.
I was beyond excited to see how the film ended, to know that he survived, and then to later learn that the directors cared more than I thought they did. The pair (of directors) knew that chimpanzees would make a fantastic subject for the big screen and I wholeheartedly agree. You can view the trailer below.