Review: ‘Reflections on Elephants’

Filmed in Botswana, Africa, by Wildlife Films Botswana for the National Geographic Society. Exec producers, Tom Simon, Nicolas Noxon; supervising producers, Janet McFadden, Teresa Koenig; producers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert; writer, Narrator: Stacy Keach.

Filmed in Botswana, Africa, by Wildlife Films Botswana for the National Geographic Society. Exec producers, Tom Simon, Nicolas Noxon; supervising producers, Janet McFadden, Teresa Koenig; producers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert; writer, Narrator: Stacy Keach.

One of National Geographic’s more profound and compelling ventures hits the tube as producers Dereck and Beverly Joubert follow a clan of elephants in Africa’s protected Botswana where they carry on their ancient traditions and curious behavior. The Jouberts never intrude; they record rituals, mating, dying , presumed bereavement and find that mysteries still surround what elephants think and do. The hour’s fascinating.

Program chooses one clan — females and calves move about in one cluster, males go their own way. Mating season brings on some ripe prose (“A lone male suddenly feels the awakenings in his body: It is the time of his must! Like a new dawn, this feeling is fresh and vital.”); pictures adequately cover the subject.

The clan’s life revolves around the quest for water. The matriarch sets life’s pace, leading the group to water holes, deciding when to move on. An abandoned calf attaches himself to her and earns the temporary resentment of her own calf.

Most important, the docu points up communication abilities among the creatures, demonstrates their capacity for memory and illustrates how they work together.

Camera work is remarkable, even joining the huge mammals swimming across a river into dangerous territory. Editing is also superior, and shots of elephants walk along a riverbank or across a savanna are both beautiful and sad.

Here’s National Geographic at its best.

Reflections on Elephants

Production

PBS, Wed. Feb. 9, 8 p.m.

Crew

Camera, editor, Dereck Joubert; series supervising editor, Barry Nye; sound, Beverly Joubert; music, Mark Adler. 60 MIN.
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