Did you ever wonder how directors make these fantastic nature documentaries where you feel like you are standing right next to the animals?
Director Christian Baumeister gave an inside view of what he and his team went through in order to make a three-part documentary on the Amazon region for NDR, Arte and National Geographic. It looks like the pressure was on, since this film is to be aired on television next year here in Europe as well as in America. He was grateful to have such a hard working team and gave special thanks to the biologist who found untold stories which hadn’t been seen in any previous documentary. His greatest surprise was when they arrived in the Amazon where he expected to see lots of wildlife but instead they were overpowered by the vast green vegetation. He decided to make use of this green footage of the Amazon, first at a distance, then moving closer in and telling detailed stories of the area. He repeats this again and again so that the viewer never loses sense of how overwhelmingly large and complex this ecosystem really is. His team spent four years in the rainforest and came out with 400 hours of footage which has been condensed down into this three-part series.
It took time to really understand the Amazon since it not only contains two thirds of all animal species found around the world, but thousands of varieties of trees and plants which are being discovered everyday. Baumeister explained that they had to film several scenes in a terrarium because it would have been impossible to control the lighting and the insect life inside the jungle. He explained that when they did insect shots that they had to slice open the plant, insert a camera and then close it back up and wait for the show to begin. This film includes ants, spiders, frogs, panthers and my personal favorite, sloths. I was surprised to hear that one of these slow moving creatures actually bit one of Baumeister’s team. He said they were extremely lucky since only one other incident happened in the four years of filming. Unfortunately one of his colleagues contracted Malaria.
They also dive into the interaction of man inside this rainforest and film two of the tribes and show how they survive in this seemingly dangerous environment. They show how the natives make their medicine, how they hunt and try to explain their spiritual awareness of the rainforest. The third part, which we didn’t see, shows man’s destruction of this wonderful place and a grim look at the future if we don’t stop our abuse of the environment. So make sure you don’t miss this series on NDR next year. I know you will be just as fascinated by the Amazon as my son and I were.