The Limits of What We Know


In 1993 filmmaker Amy Bodman travelled to Zimbabwe "to make a film about land as living entity." It has taken her fifteen years to produce a film which pushes "The limits of what we know about ecosystems; about Zimbabwe; about specifics; about the mutual affinities of organic beings; about nature, animals and ourselves."

The Limits of What We Know
premieres at the Vancouver Film Festival. It is a slow-moving and graceful film, broken into chapters with titles like Great Zimbabwe 1000-1600 A.D.; On Safari; The Composition of Drought; Lake Kariba; A Map of the World; The Culture of Cattle; Trees; Rain. The director warned me that I might find it boring but I was captivated. I don't know how much of this world has been lost in the political upheavals of recent years, but what Amy recorded fifteen years ago is extraordinarily beautiful and moving.
Watch this incredible two-minute sequence where it is explained how trees respond to being eaten by animals by pumping up their tannin levels to make their leaves bitter, while also releasing ethylene gas to warn other trees to prepare for being served as dinner. Who knew that trees could a) respond, b) defend themselves and c) talk?

"The limits of what we know about the voice of leopards, the hearts of giraffes; about brown rocks; about aesthetics, the iron age and the spirits of ancestors; about waiting games, lonely old animals and the function of weeds; about bigger bodies of water underneath; about the relationship between dogs and hippopotamuses, about predators and prey being at rest in each other's company; about being charged by lions; about the creation of waterholes; the communications systems of trees; the growing generation gap between elephants; about children; about leaving things be; about the essence of songs from faraway places." -Alan Franey, Director, Vancouver International Film Festival

We should probably be sending flying squads of videographers around the world right now to document what is disappearing so fast due to climate change, human encroachment, poaching and habitat destruction. Amy Bodman's The Limits of What We Know could be a great template. Watch it at the Vancouver Film Festival. and ::The Limits of What We Know

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