SIFF 2012: ‘True Wolf’ [Review]
There are two easy ways to elicit an “awwwwww” response from an audience. You can either showcase a baby or an animal – it’s the quickest way to someone’s heart. True Wolf doesn’t rely on this in an annoying way, but it ends up being the most prominent positive reaction. Rob Whitehair’s wolf documentary sort of contradicts itself, which could be part of the intent. Either way, it ultimately distracts from Koani’s story. There is plenty to see and enjoy, but there is more to question.
True Wolf makes its worldwide premiere at the 38th Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) tonight. The other SIFF showtimes will be listed below. I was lucky enough to catch the press screening almost a month ago.
Taking place predominately in Missoula, MT, it documents one wolf’s life. Being initially raised for another film, Koani (the wolf) becomes part of a “wolf-centered family.” She is raised like a domesticated animal her whole life. Bruce and Pat completely change their lifestyle in order to suit Koani’s needs, including walking her twice a day, creating an inside/outside habitat, and introducing a companion (in this case, a dog named Indy).
Besides documenting Koani and her human family, the films dons a pro-wolf message. In the past, hunters and farmers have led anti-wolf coalitions to drive down the population. Teetering on the brink of extinction (especially in the Northern Rockies), Bruce and Pat show Koani off for educational value as a means for change, much like this movie.
Pathos-wise, Koani’s story makes a lot of sense. She’s smart, playful, and inherently adorable, no matter how dangerous she actually is. However, from a logical standpoint, the movie makes a huge misstep. By keeping Koani locked away and socialized, the human characters are restricting wolf populations. More importantly, it’s a lot like the message they are passionately opposing. I do realize this could be part of the film’s motive (ala last year’s Project Nim), but the main characters are shown very positively, making me guess it’s not.
Likewise, there is a particularly irking juxtaposition towards the end of the film (in relation to 9/11). Again, this could’ve been me looking too much into it, but I’m curious to see if anyone else agrees.
True Wolf is great when we stick with Koani. However, from a rhetorical standpoint, the documentary’s logic pails in comparison to the emotional appeals. Animals, such as Koani, get an automatic free pass, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook the obvious fallacies. Common ground is essential to any argument, and I’m not sure we get enough here to warrant it. By the end, True Wolf is a story about an interesting animal as a main character but a poorly executed message. I’d like to justify the theme, but it’s not obvious if I should or shouldn’t.
SIFFgoers can see the film for themselves as it makes its debut tonight. As a bonus, Rob Whitehair will be in attendance. Below are the showtimes:
May 31 – 6:30 PM (SIFF Cinema Uptown)
June 1 – 4:00 PM (SIFF Cinema Uptown)