Bird’s-eye views

‘Land of Genesis’ captures the lives of some of the country’s oldest living creatures

baby wolves311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
baby wolves311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LAND OF GENESIS (ISR) Directed by Moshe Alpert.Written by Efraim Sidon and Idit Hacamovitch. Hebrew title: Eretz Breisheet. 89 minutes. In Hebrew, check with theaters about subtitle information.
When I was growing up, Disney was the studio that concentrated on nature films for children. They featured breathtaking photography and sometimes inane voiceovers (“Now, the tarantula welcomes his lady friend”). But I have to admit, I loved every minute. Of course, in those days there were a couple of taboos in these movies. Nothing too terrible would happen to any cute critter we had gotten to know and you never really saw the animals, ahem, mating.
In recent years, Disney has concentrated on inane television for ‘tweens, but a whole genre of brilliant nature films has developed around the world, including BBC’s Planet Earth and such films as March of the Penguins and Deep Blue. Israeli films have advanced in the past decade so much that they can now compete on a purely technical level with all but the most expensive Hollywood productions, so it was only natural that there would eventually be an Israeli nature film.
Land of Genesis is a wonderful film that I hope will be the first of many to be made here. Its gimmick is that it throws a couple of Bible quotes into the mix, but its real purpose is not theology or preaching, but simply to show a side of nature that humans rarely get to see, and to present it with the most beautiful images possible.
Land of Genesis was directed by Moshe Alpert, an award-winning cinematographer who has spent much of the last 30 years filming wildlife in Israel. For the film he has used advanced camera techniques that allow closer access to animals, clearer panoramic views, and sharper focus in darkness, to great effect.
Israel may be a small country, but its geography is extremely varied and it is home to a great variety of species. The landscapes filmed here may be places you have visited, but you’ve never caught more than a glimpse of the animals shown here living their lives.
The film goes season by season, and divides itself among several groups of animals: ibex in the Judean desert, jungle cats on the shores of the Kinneret, wolves in the Golan Heights, and migrating birds throughout the country.
There are also cameos by various other animals, including porcupines and snakes. The photography is breathtaking and some gorgeous images linger after the film’s end, of a flock of birds flying at sunset, jungle cats swimming in the azure water of the Sea of Galilee, wolf cubs learning to play and hunt, and ibex kids stumbling down a hillside for the first time.
The haunting, Middle Eastern-style background music is by Uri Ophir, and is far more effective than the cloying tunes written and sung by Noa. The commentary harkens back to that Disney era of anthropomorphizing the animals. For example, all the creatures are given names, though it’s hard to believe the male ibex who head-butts all his rivals into submission would truly be called Rotem – how about Uzi? But these are minor reservations. This is simply a beautiful celebration of the richness of the animal world.
Parents should be warned: This isn’t your grandparents’ Disney universe where cute animals don’t die. There are quite a few graphic scenes of animals feeding on their prey, and these may upset younger kids. There is also a fair amount about the reproductive habits of the animals, and, again, unlike in the old Disney flicks, here, your children will learn where the babies come from.
Only you know your kids and what will disturb them (and you). But I very much recommend the film for children and it will make you want to leave the theater and take them straight for a hike.