I have just returned from the WildSouth International Film Festival in Wanaka – a festival that I had a hand in organizing. But that is not the point of this: what got me excited was not just the quality of individual films like the wonderful Mississippi: tales of a river rat but the unavoidable awe one experienced at seeing the different faces of Nature apparent in the films. From the opening of the festival, with its montage of superlative images of wildlife set to the haunting music of Trevor Coleman (in Equator: circle of life), to the many insects that dot the South American landscape in Buggin’ with Ruud, to the sequences of sharks, hunting dogs and elephants in the BBC’s Pole to Pole – you could not help but marvel at how varied Nature is, at how clever Natural Selection has been.
It was like undergoing Darwin’s five-year voyage on the Beagle in just five days at the festival. From tarantulas that live in the desert to leopards that live in Siberia, the thing that hit you time and again was how perfectly adapted they all were to their individual niches, and how bizarre were some of the solutions that Nature had devised for these animals. The multitude of inventions seemed too much for a single designer – even one with a big brain and all-seeing capabilities. And then there were the obvious connections between groups that hinted at evolution from one form to another.
After five days at WildSouth 2007, one may not be able to write On the Origin of Species, but one is certainly left with an appreciation of the varied nature of species, which leads inextricably to questions of their origin.