Tale of a not-so-lone Wolf

Moshe Alpert's 'A Wolf’s Tale' is an extraordinary look at the life of a wolf in the Galilee.

Moshe Alpert's 'A Wolf’s Tale' (photo credit: Courtesy)
Moshe Alpert's 'A Wolf’s Tale'
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Directed by Moshe Alpert.Hebrew title: Yilelat Haze’evim.90 minutes.In Hebrew, check with theaters for title information.
Three years ago, Moshe Alpert created the first high-quality, feature-length Israeli nature documentary, Land of Genesis. Now, he has followed it up with A Wolf’s Tale, an extraordinary look at the life of a wolf in the Galilee.
Years ago, Walt Disney used to make child-appropriate nature documentaries about animals that featured what was then cutting-edge photography, and anthropomorphized animal characters. Today, advances in photographic technology have made it possible to capture more intensely beautiful images of animals than ever before.
There have been a number of international nature films, such as March of the Penguins, and the BBC series, Earth, that have used this technology to great advantage. But until Land of Genesis, there hadn’t been local films that showed Israel’s natural beauty. That film looked at several pairs of animals living in various parts of the country, and that worked well.
This time, Alpert, who has worked as a cinematographer on dozens of movies, focuses on a single animal and his life. The wolf at the center of this movie is a kind of Everywolf, whose thoughts are explained by narrator Shmil Ben-Ari.
While the sometimes awkward narration is basically aimed at children, what all viewers will respond to are the amazing images. We see the wolf first at the end of his life, and then go back his childhood in a wolf pack. We see him nursing, eating meat his father brings, and trying to win some attention from his father.
Next, he learns to hunt, and leaves the pack for the excitement of life in the open fields. Eventually, he finds a mate and raises a pack of his own.
The wolf cubs are extremely cute and anybody who likes dogs – or nature – will love this movie.
However, this is not a cartoon world.
The wolves are carnivores and while we are spared extended scenes of them killing prey, we certainly see them eating it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, but parents should be forewarned that these images are likely to be upsetting to young children. The whole issue of mating is handled so tastefully you might think that these wolves are the lupine equivalent of preteens holding hands.
While the film feels like an essentially accurate record of a wolf’s life, there are a few details here and there that seem a bit forced, in order to give the wolf a quasi-human persona. For example, as a forest fire rages, the wolf worries that an adorable faun has been separated from its mother, while a real wolf would undoubtedly have made a quick snack of the baby deer as he fled to safety.
This is just a quibble, however.
What makes the film worth seeing are the gorgeous and vivid up-close images of the wolves. There is actually footage of cubs being born. And the movie doesn’t only feature wolves. In addition to the previously mentioned faun, there are striking images of many other animals, notably birds.
There is also wonderful time-lapse photography of flowers and the horizon, as well as a lovely interlude during a snowstorm, which isn’t much fun for the wolf, but is a rare treat for viewers.
While the film may frighten the youngest children, it is certainly recommended for slightly older kids.
In addition to teaching them about nature, it is also likely to inspire them to feel compassion for animals – hunters are not sympathetic figures here.
A Wolf’s Tale is a wonderful family film about a side of nature that is usually hidden from humans.