A Stunning Visual Treat: Review of Seasons at VIFF

  • Published on Oct 03 2016 |
  • by Michelle Sz |
  • This article is tagged as: viff

By Michelle Sz

Yesterday, I attended the Canadian premiere of Seasons, the beautiful documentary that CPAWS-BC has the pleasure to partner with at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)

Seasons starts off as a sensory journey – from the bitter cold winds of the Ice Age to the soft breezes in springtime to the roar of a summer thunderstorm, the film takes us into the lives of wildlife great and small.

The amazing camera work and colourful cinematography let us discover the speed with which a wild boar flees for its life from a pack of wolves, wonder at the grace with which a flying squirrel floats from tree to tree, and marvel at the quick yet steady gallop of a mountain goat racing down a rocky slope. We get taken behind the scenes to watch the most intimate interactions in the animal kingdom: a newborn fawn’s first steps as its mother licks it, the powerful kicks a wild horse lands on an undesirable mate, the playful games of fox cubs.

Little human narration was needed, as directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud weave the stories and episodes of different animals and species together by clever and masterly juxtaposition. We laugh along at the comical way a magpie tricks a squirrel into leaving its hiding place, and then snatching up its hard-earned acorn in the process. We groan in unison as the grizzly bear cub thumps back down to the ground in its attempt to climb up a tree. 

Halfway into the film, we start to see the signs of human impact: trees chopped down to make roads, fields dug up to make way for farmland, fences and traps to keep wildlife away. One stark image in particular stood out in my mind: a lost and confused-looking elk caught in the midst of an oddly symmetrical archway of trees – what was once a lush forest now trimmed and pruned for human thoroughfare.

In fact, without need for language or words, the audience can feel in the wild eyes and hesitant steps of the animals one common question: “What the #$%^ just happened?” Sadly, though we knew what was happening, the wildlife had no idea what hit them. There was a distinct contrast between when a prey sensed a natural predator and took off, beginning a race to eat or avoid getting eaten, versus when an animal gets shot by a unseen bullet or bomb, or hears the call of a hunting horn but doesn’t register what it means, or writhe in agony from the toxic chemical designed to keep them off crops.

It made me feel rather terrible myself to belong to the species that caused – and still causes – such widespread destruction, as I watched an emaciated grizzly bear hike up and up, and up, a mountain to find refuge because people had taken over what once was its home and food source.

Seasons sends a powerful message without more than a few dozen words spoken. The mesmerizing images and clips, from tiny beetles to large herds of reindeer, marvellously portrays the speed, power, ferocity, tenderness, and so much more in the natural world that we rarely get to witness. Yet, all of these astounding moments and ways of life are no longer existent because of the changes that mankind has wrought on the environment. Dense forests now turned into wastelands of stumps and dismal small patches next to towns, where the original inhabitants can no longer hide or thrive in. This is the devastating result of human development and impact, and a very frightening future for Canada’s landscapes. Will our country become like Europe, with its irreparable damage to its now defunct forests and wilderness?

Seasons is screening again on Friday, Oct. 7th at The Centre for Performing Arts and Wednesday, Oct. 12 at the Vancity Theatre. Please visit the VIFF website for tickets and more informationWatch the trailer here.