Double feature: This is a pairing of two documentaries that diverge in tone but share a surprisingly similar ambition: to illuminate the thoughts of those whose minds might be unfathomable to us.
Both “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which offers unprecedented access to the Upper Paleolithic paintings in France’s Chauvet Cave, and “Animals are Beautiful People,” which focuses on the wildlife in Southern Africa, take what is essentially an anthropomorphizing approach to their subjects. Neither the Paleolithic artists who created those paintings (or the members of their community who appreciated them,) nor the various animals in the Namib Desert or Okavango Delta, can be said to share our way of thinking. Yet these two directors devote their films to the sympathetic, imaginative effort of building a bridge between ours and theirs.
“Animals are Beautiful People” remains consistent with its perspectival approach – meaning that what begins as charming and whimsical can eventually feel syrupy and patronizing. But as “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” gets deeper into its caves, it also spins further outward into the multiple disciplines continuing to work through their meaning. Its interviews with smart, committed, possibly obsessed scholars reveal the wonder of engagement with removed lives and remote cultures.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “kightp” and “CIFOR” at Flickr)