Take one part March of the Penguins, add a splash of Lion King (or Kimba the White Lion for animation purists), and add a healthy dose of Planet Earth, what you end up with is lion tamer Kevin Richardson’s White Lion.
Told with a completely real live animal cast, White Lion tells the story of a white lion by the name of Letsatsi. White lions are regarded as divine creatures by the locals of South Africa, and children are told of the story of a local tribe boy, a young Shangaan named Gisani, who feels it is his duty to watch over Letsatsi. Both must face their own trials and tribulations. Letsatsi must find a way to survive on his own (and later with the aid of fellow lion, Nkulu), while Gisani takes a job as a tracker for a local hunter. Gisani must find a way to stop the hunter from gaining his prized possession of the white lion.
The story itself of White Lion is actually very simple, and a bit primitive, but this shouldn’t detract from the film. Actually, it does the opposite. Richardson smartly does not get bogged down in the details, and rather lets his animals tell the story. At times it is hard to tell if Richardson found resourceful ways to make the animals do what was needed, or he just happened to come across the story. It does seem that much of the story might have been derived from what the animals did on their own.
What really impresses about the film is that it does develop unique characters without the use of dialogue. Sure, we are kept in the know through the use of clever narration, but it feels like the story could come through on its own.
Part of the beauty of the film is in the quality of the footage presented. There is a solid cinematic quality mixed with the nature style film many of us know and love from networks like Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc. The quality gives the film an extra depth, and a bit more cinematic realism.
It’s hard watching a film like White Lion, and not be in awe of the beauty of the animals presented. It’s even more incredible when you realize director Kevin Richardson is in close contact with the animals daily. Despite their amazing beauty, agile grace, and fluffy exteriors, lions are still one of the most feared predators on the earth, and the fact that Richardson has the ability to cast them as his actors is astounding.
White Lion opens today at Weherenberg Ronnies 20.