If you’ve ever answered a child’s question about kangaroo joeys with a vague reference to a pouch, pay close attention. The truth about marsupial reproduction is bizarrely fascinating. As part of their look at how animals mate, give birth and raise their young in tough places, Mark Evans and Joy Reidenberg travel to Australia to watch kangaroos in action.
Mark hangs out with the boys – crouching near a watering hole in the darkened outback, likening it to a dodgy pick-up joint – while Joy is at a kangaroo sanctuary, seeing a tiny newborn make the staggering climb through its mother’s fur to the safety of the pouch. Courtesy of Australia’s supremely well-adapted wildlife, there’s also sex up a tree, a four-headed penis and the kind of “helpful bacteria” you don’t get in a yoghurt drink – and it’s all vividly conveyed.
When Charlie Hamilton James bought 100 acres of Peruvian rainforest, he imagined he’d make a film about how he stopped it being destroyed by the people living there. Instead, he’s shown that you can’t protect the rainforest without also supporting the people who need it to survive.
Ironically, it’s after he watches Brazilian cattle farmer Dino burning down a massive area of forest so his cows can graze that he has his epiphany. Charlie can’t believe it’s taken him a year to come up with a potential solution – for his little bit of forest anyway – but then he’s been on a fairly intense personal journey of self-discovery as well.
There comes a point during an interminable sequence, in which Kate Humble and an Australian fireman sit in a van testing the heat levels of fire, when you might sob, “Yes, I get it. Fire is hot and it burns. Now GET ON WITH IT.”
Never has a documentary been so laboured as it deals with something so fundamentally simple: fire destroys and if you want to put out a fire, you have to dump lots and lots of water on it.
Of course, there’s a certain atavistic fascination with watching a gigantic fire on the rampage, and the firefighters of New South Wales have a remarkably difficult and dangerous job. But Humble and Simon Reeve are excitable distractions.