Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Chang is an anthropological documentary with a staged narrative in the style of Nanook of the North. Adventurers Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, last seen documenting the remarkable migration of the Baktyari tribe of Iran herding their goats over mountain passes in Grass, bring their cameras to a remote Lao tribe in the untamed jungles of Siam. Marty Mapes at Movie Habit has this excellent review of both films.


It's not entirely clear to me just how much of this was staged; the cameras always seem to be in the right place to catch some remarkable footage, suspiciously, from a variety of angles. This isn't detrimental. In fact, it's quite impressive - just how would somebody, logistically, stage a herd of wild elephants trampling a village?

The actual killing of exotic animals in this movie gets a bit hard to stomach after awhile, but I don't doubt that hunting for food and protection was a certain necessity for these people.


Merian Cooper considered remaking this movie a few decades later, but civilization had already crept in and permanently altered this culture preventing that possibility and making this film an indispensable record of a now non-existent culture.

Although I'm sure there were plenty of people in 1927 that were offended by the animal cruelty, I think it's fair to say that it is less tolerated today than then. A large part of this is no doubt due to the efforts of the American Humane society that has been monitoring the treatment of animals in movies for over 65 years.

No comments: