Hot Docs Review: Nénette [2009, Nicolas Philibert]

Toronto – I think Planet Earth has spoiled me on all documentaries involving animals. I loved that documentary, even bought it on blu ray (from England, not the Siguorney Weaver one) before I had a blu ray player. Hell, I still don’t have a blu ray player. The footage captured in that documentary was astounding, so it set the bar pretty high in terms of documentaries involving animals.

Now obviously, the documentary Nénette is not that type of documentary, but I’m just doing the comparison to give you some expectations of footage I had going in to this documentary.

Nénette is an orangutan who has been at the Jardin Des Plantes zoo since 1972. One of the zoo’s most popular attractions, the ape gets regular visits from many visitors, many of whom have seen Nénette through the years and have developed emotional attachments to it. The documentary consists of many faceless people talking about their relationship to Nénette and how they think Nénette is doing/feeling. It doesn’t take a zoologist to realize that this is one depressed animal. The zoo settings are horrendous and there really isn’t that much room for an animal of that size to roam. That’s beside the point though. The film consists ENTIRELY of zoo footage, which could have been great if the animal, you know.., did anything. Anyone whose seen an older animal at a zoo would know that those animals tend to do nothing. So what you get is 70 minutes of a bored orangutan, doing pretty much nothing but sitting down and occasionally moving. There wasn’t even many zoo keeper – orangutan interaction you might expect from a documentary about an animal at the zoo. Visually, I had a hard time keeping my attention on the screen, and that is an issue considering the film is entirely subtitled (because it’s in French).

Aside from the zookeepers, there weren’t many “experts” in the field who were interviewed, so I guess for me, it seemed like a lot of the opinions and information was not something I would fully trust or believe. I didn’t really get anything out of this viewing other then that Nénette is probably pretty sad.

Here is a more in-depth article about the movie, with explanations from Nicolas Philibert as to why he made the movie.

Nenette (70 minutes) plays on the following days:
May 6, 7:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
May 8, 4:30 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre

Here is a trailer in french.

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs

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Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.