African Cats

African Cats

2011, G, 89 min. Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 29, 2011

The fates of a pride of lions and a cheetah and her cubs, which live on opposite sides of a river in the African savanna, are intently followed in this Disneynature documentary. It’s this emphasis on the animals’ fates and ordeals, however, that renders this stunningly photographed film a specious work of zoological observation. This Earth Day release has honorable intentions, but it imbues the animals with human emotions and motives, which only muddies our understanding of these ferocious feline species. The narration by Jackson concludes the film by declaring what we’ve seen to be “living proof of the power of a mother’s love” (which makes me wonder if Disney might have been better off fashioning an ad campaign geared toward Mother’s Day rather than Earth Day). Even though the film is a documentary rather than an animated work, this being a Disney product means that the company’s familiar storyline about a motherless child making its way in the world takes center stage. (Think of Bambi, Dumbo, and Snow White for early examples, and Rapunzel in Tangled for signs of the formula’s continuance into the present day.) In African Cats, the lion cub Mara copes with the death of her mother. Also problematic will be the junglelike quality of nature in which all animals must eat or be eaten. For adults, the tackling of zebras and the devouring of their flesh will appear visually tame and tactful, although many children are sure to have stronger reactions to the sight – especially when it’s conducted by these nice mommy animals who suddenly appear to be merciless bullies and fanged carnivores. And if young children are disturbed by African Cats, I’m not sure who the intended audience might be. However, if you’re looking for some way to celebrate Mother’s Day, you might consider visiting these fierce African mommas.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Alastair Fothergill Films
Chilly nature documentary has a cuddly heart that's perfect for young animal lovers

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 19, 2019

Monkey Kingdom
Disneynature doc profiles Sri Lanka's famed Temple Troop of toque macaques

Marc Savlov, April 24, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
All That Breathes
The struggle by three men to save the endangered black kite

March 31, 2023

SXSW Film Review: <i>Joy Ride</i>
Film Review: Joy Ride
Groundbreaking comedy doesn't break the raunchy mold

March 19, 2023


African Cats, Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle