‘Okavango — River of Dreams’ Is The Best Episode Of PBS’ Series ‘Nature’ So Far This Year

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

The Okavango River is one of Africa’s most important and one of the world’s most important and awe-inspiring bodies of water.  Instead of flowing out into the ocean, the river flows inland through Botswana and toward the Kalahari Desert.  The river creates a virtual paradise for the animals that live in the desert’s hostile environment while also being a virtual Eden in its source and its delta.  Now thanks to PBS Distribution, audiences can take a journey along the river with the animals that migrate along its length and that call the river home in the new episode Okavango: River of Dreams.  The nearly three hour documentary, released Jan. 7, is an engaging and entertaining presentation in part due to the information that is featured throughout its three segments.  That information will be discussed shortly.  Speaking of the segments, the fact that the two-hour, forty-minute program is presented in three separate segments is another key aspect to its presentation.  It will be discussed a little later.  The cinematography featured in this episode of Nature is also worth noting, and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of this program.  All things considered, they make it one of the year’s best new documentaries even despite the unnecessary preachy pro-conservation message featured in the episode’s finale.

OkavangoRiver of Dreams is an awe-inspiring presentation that is among the best new Nature episodes released so far this year and among the best new overall documentaries so far this year.  That is proven in part through the story at its center.  The story in question is that of the Okavango River, and its role as the center of a much larger ecosystem.  Audiences will remain engaged and entertained as they watch the river course its way from its source, into its delta and into the dry, arid desert land where it ends, at least until rains fall to give those lands new life.  Learning of the role that elephants play in the river’s course and even that some seemingly natural foes – hyenas and warthogs – actually find some moments in which they live peacefully at times is enlightening.  Seeing the lengths that some animals go to for survival at the far, drier end of the river is just as enlightening, as those behaviors prove to be quite similar to human behaviors, in terms of survival of the fittest.  Simply watching the interactions of the overall ecosystem of the Okavango River is in itself enlightening. From the hierarchies of the cat families (lions and leopards) to the influence of elephants on the whole of the ecosystem to the sheer vast number of species is another key portion of the program’s informational aspect.  Between all of this and so much more, the general content of this episode of Nature gives audiences so much to appreciate.

While the content featured throughout the course of Okavango River of Dreams does a lot to make this episode engaging and entertaining, it is just one of the presentation’s important elements.  The fact that the nearly three-hour program is broken up into segments ensures even more, audiences’ engagement and entertainment.  The program is broken up into three distinct segments – “Paradise,” “Limbo,” and “Inferno” – a la Dante’s epic poem.  The whole thing starts at the best point in the river’s extension, “Paradise.”  As the rive flows through the African continent, resources begin to become less, leading to more competition for resources and survival.  That moment is “Limbo.”  The river’s end near the Kalahari Desert is the “Inferno.”  It is the harshest point for all of the creatures that rely on the river for life.  The far southern end of the river is a point at which the water becomes far less available for creatures above and below the waves.  Each segment has a distinct beginning, middle and end.  Viewers are not forced to sit through the story in one whole watch.  This is important to note because in segmenting the story, it allows viewers to take the story at their own pace.  That ability to take in the story of the river and its ecosystem ensures even more, that audiences will be more focused and in turn engaged as they watch each segment.  So while this might not seem all that important on the surface, it is of great importance in the bigger picture.  What’s more, the pacing within each segment partners with that segmentation to add even more certainty that audiences will remain engaged and entertained throughout the program overall.  Keeping in mind the impact of the episode’s pacing and segmentation along with the general content, the whole of this presentation is even stronger.  They are not the program’s only key elements.  The cinematography featured throughout the episode puts the finishing touch to its whole.

The cinematography that is featured throughout the course of OkavangoRiver of Dreams is award-worthy to say the absolute least.  Whether it be the aerial shots from high above the African continent, the close ups of animals wading through the river’s waters, the creatures of the deep (so to speak) who live in the river or even the smooth, seamless shots of the river that flow just as smoothly as the river itself, every one of those shots does its own part to keep viewers engaged and entertained, too.  The program may be presented on DVD, but the footage is so rich and full of life and color, as if it was shot in high definition.  Whether watching the flamingos take to the skies in “Inferno,” the elephants make their way along the river in all three segments and big cats working to survive all along the river while also training their cubs, audiences are given the best seat in the house while feeling like there are immersed in the program thanks to the cinematography.  The blue skies set against the dry, cracked ground at the river’s end creates such a stark contrast that creates its own powerful impact for audiences.  The slow motion shots of gazelles bounding through the river’s waters is moving in its own way, too.  Simply put, the cinematography featured throughout the course of this episode of Nature is just as important to its presentation as the episode’s primary content and its segmentation.  When all three elements are considered together, the whole of those elements makes this presentation a work that is the best episode of PBS’ Nature so far this year and one of the year’s top new documentaries so far, too.  That is even despite the inclusion of the completely unnecessary preachy pro-conservationist message pushed at the finale of the program and also the equally confusing inclusion of Marilyn Manson’s cover of The Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ at the beginning and end of each segment.  Yes, it actually incorporates Marilyn Manson into its whole.  Again, even with this in mind, the program in whole is still worth the watch.

PBS’ presentation of Nature: OkavangoRiver of Dreams is one of the best of the series’ episodes so far this year and easily and one of the year’s top new documentaries.  That is evidenced in part through the general content that makes up the body of the episode.  It is rich in its own right, as has been pointed out here.  The fact that the nearly three-hour program is separated into three distinct segments will encourage audiences to watch the program in whole, and in turn ensure even more, audiences will remain engaged and entertained.  The cinematography featured throughout the program round out its most important elements.  The only real negatives to the whole are the fact that once again, that unnecessary preachy pro-conservationist message is there and the inclusion of Marilyn Manson’s cover of The Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).’  One can’t even begin to figure out what necessity had for the program.  That was just a poor choice as there is no connection between that song and this program in terms of content.  What’s more, audiences who watch Nature know that we need to care for planet Earth and all of its ecosystems.  We do not need to be preached at time and again.  The people behind Nature have got to get this through their heads and stop letting that preaching get into every episode.  Save the preaching for one episode of the program.  People watch this show to learn and to be entertained, not to be preached at.  Now, getting back on track, even despite the two noted negatives, this program still boasts so much to its positive that it is still well worth the watch time and again.  It is available now on DVD.  More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:




Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature




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