AWFJ Women On Film – “Born To Be Wild” – Susan Granger reviews

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“This story is like a fairy tale, except it’s entirely true – and we don’t know how it will end,” narrator Morgan Freeman begins this uplifting IMAX documentary adventure that revolves around two real-life fairy godmothers.

Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick is the widow of internationally known Kenya conservationist David Sheldrick. Back in 1977, after her husband died, she opened a nursery for abandoned infant elephants and, over a period of 28 years, developed not only the specialized milk formula they required but also a process of rescue and rehabilitation.

Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas is one of the three most prominent primate researchers – with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. Working since 1971 in the jungles of Borneo, she has raised and rehabilitated orangutans whose mothers were killed and habitats ravaged.

Director David Lickley focuses on reflections by these compassionate women who have promised to care for their charges only as long as needed, teaching them skills and then returning them to live in the wild, raising families of their own.

In the beginning of their indoctrination to human care, baby elephants and baby orangutans suckle on giant baby’s bottles and enjoy their soapy baths. Both species have distinctive personalities, craving cuddling and contact, as they work with dedicated keepers. Lovable one moment, naughty the next – they’re a delight to watch, particularly as the elephants kick around a soccer ball and the orangutans cavort in the treetops. Watching a devoted keeper tenderly tucking a plaid blanket around a nervous, newly arrived tiny, sleeping elephant, before he settles into his nearby cot, is a magical moment.

From wide-angle landscapes to close-ups of the animals, the cinematography is spectacular, seamlessly transitioning from the African plains to the Indonesian rainforest.

Years ago, while on safari, we visited The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, just outside Nairobi, and witnessed this extraordinary phenomenon first-hand. So on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Born to be Wild” is an incredible, inspiring 8. Educational and endearing, it opens today at Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium and around the country

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.