Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Call of the Wild" seeks greater understanding

My freelance review:
If you were intrigued by Into the Wild -- either the best-selling book by John Krakauer or its film adaptation by Sean Penn (reviewed here) -- you will probably enjoy The Call of the Wild, a documentary that strives to put together a larger mosaic of Into the Wild's main character, Christopher McCandless.

I recently had the opportunity to see The Call of the Wild at the St. Louis International Film Festival. The timing was great, as I had seen Into the Wild just a month before and was yearning for further insight into McCandless, his journeys and his motivations.  The Call of the Wild's filmmaker Ron Lamothe was present at the screening and did an insightful audience Q&A afterwards.  While the Q&A helped to further appreciate Lamothe's film, Lamothe's writing on his web site helps a lot, too.

Lamothe is a 37-year-old married father of two and the founder of Terra Incognita Films, which "produces documentaries that explore the unexplored, films that map the unknown territories of our current knowledge -- be they events or individuals or ideas."

And it's the territory covered by McCandless that Lamothe himself covers in an effort to deepen his understanding of not only what happened to McCandless but also "the deeper truth to be found" from certain of McCandless' actions, including his last journal entry.  In May of 2006, Lamonthe took to the road and began his quest "fourteen years in the making."

Lamothe's narrative is insightful and welcoming throughout the film.  He takes the viewer with him and shares his realizations and reflections along the way.  His narration often reflects on his own rationale for making this journey in addition to speculating on what McCandless' rationale may have been. This level of intimacy adds to the overall strength of Lamothe's film.

Lamothe filmed this documentary around the same time Sean Penn was filming Into the Wild, and the two filmmakers' paths actually intersected -- more than once. A few times, certain individuals from McCandless' travels were made inaccessible to Lamothe due to exclusivity contracts signed with Penn's film, raising a few eyebrows as to why such actions were taken.

The Call of the Wild makes for a terrific companion piece to Into the Wild. Do yourself a favor and see this documentary. It's available on DVD from the Terra Incognita Films web site.

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