Sunday, September 11, 2016

TIFF 2016: Safari

Safari is Ulrich Seidl's documentary about European trophy hunters. He presents the material very starkly, with long scenes following the hunters and their guides as they track the animals, portrait-like shots of each participant, conversations among the hunters and the owners of the hunting lodge as they explain and justify what they do, and brutal but matter-of-fact observations of the animals being skinned and butchered. It is often boring (as the hunt can be), occasionally humourous, as some of the tourist hunters are portrayed in unflattering ways, and near the end deeply disturbing as we see magnificent animals cut up in scenes that are longer than they need to be to merely show us what happens. By extending scenes beyond a normal dramatic length, Seidl makes us feel we are present in the hunt, and by merely showing us everything from the hunter's perspective, he lets us make up our own minds about what we think of trophy hunting.

The cast of characters includes the European hunters, their white guides, and a number of black Namibian and South African members of the hunting lodge staff, but apart from one or two brief moments, only the white characters have speaking parts. I'm struggling to decide whether I'm upset that their voices were left out, or if that was an effective device to emphasize that the white foreigners continue to control much of what goes on in Africa.

Several people got up and left partway through the film (more than I have ever seen at a TIFF screening). The film was disturbing in both its monotony and its brutality. I can't say I enjoyed it, but in some ways I think I appreciated what Seidl was trying to get across.

TIFF 2016 Overview

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