PBS’ latest documentary from its Nature series is exactly what audiences would expect from the series. Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo is a beautifully shot work that takes audiences into the Canadian wilds that while it’s somewhat unbalanced in its content, is still worth viewing at least once. The title of the latest entry in PBS’ Nature series is misleading, considering that the bulk of the feature is spent not so much on the relationship between buffalo and wolves, but on the wolves’ social and hunting habits. In the feature’s defense, it can be said that what saves it is its stunning cinematography and equally beautiful backdrops as well as the subtle notes of the wolves’ habits. The program was filmed in the Wood Buffalo National Park. The aerial shots of the park are stunning to say the least. Audiences get glimpses of the park both during its winter months, covered in snow, and in its warmer months. Seeing the buffalo herds and the wolf pack moving along the terrain is especially interesting from the air in that audiences will note the tracks in the ground. They may not be, but they come across as the same tracks that both followed in the snow. Equally interesting to note is that while some of the wolves will help divide and conquer a herd, others stick close together, even travelling in a line both when hunting and simply travelling.
The backdrops and cinematography incorporated into Cold Warriors are both impressive. They carry the roughly hour long feature on their backs. Thanks to these aspects, the feature’s lesser aspects are made more bearable. The program’s title leads one to believe that its focus is on the seeming relationship between the two groups. But documentarian Jeff Turner openly spends more time on what he dubs the “Delta Pack” of wolves that he is tracking than on the buffalo, thus somewhat negating any concept of a relationship between the two groups of animals. The manner in which the two groups are portrayed makes the buffalo come across as little more than prey for the wolves. He doesn’t really spend any time focusing on the social habits of the buffalo. And while Turner makes note of man’s potential impact on both groups early in the program, audiences don’t even get any of this discussion until late in the feature’s final minutes. Given, the packaging for this feature does note that the focus would be on the wolves. But that being the case, the feature’s title becomes rather misleading. For all of this, it does still have its merits.
Cold Warriors is not the best of PBS’ Nature series. Though, it is worth at least one watch. As already noted, the cinematography and setting are both beautiful and stunning. They do so much to move the special along. They are just part of what makes this feature interesting. Also interesting to note here is the wolves’ behavioral patterns. Their ability to communicate specific messages with very specific howls is an eye opener. Most people would think with a casual glance that a howl is a howl. But as Turner shows in his footage, that’s anything but true. He shows that a single howl can bring together an entire group of wolves to help hunt for buffalo. It’s proof of very intelligent behavior. We as humans like to believe that we are the smartest beings on the planet. But the “Delta Pack’s” ability to communicate in such fashion is yet more proof of the intelligence of other animals. This along with Turner’s shooting style and the backdrops make Cold Warriors a presentation that any nature lover should see at least once.
Cold Warriors is available now. It can be ordered online now at http://www.shoppbs.org. Audiences should note that being a nature program, some scenes may not be entirely suitable for some viewers.
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