Planet Earth’s “Wild Camel Chase”

27 Aug
Bactrian Camels

Bactrian Camels

When asked to visualize a camel in its natural environment, few people would picture an icy habitat.  Yet, for the endangered Bactrian camel of Mongolia in the Gobi Desert, the only source of water is snow.   In order to increase public awareness of this elusive and nearly extinct animal, the BBC’s Planet Earth film crew braved Mongolia’s harsh weather and primitive conditions.  Though their “Wild Camel Chase” was difficult and frustrating, this part of the award-winning documentary keeps the viewer’s interest through education and drama with a subtle sense of humor.

The crew’s search for suitable footage of the Bactrian camel began in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capitol.  As producer Huw Cordey explained the preparation for the two-month trip as the rest of the crew packed up the vehicles, the viewer can see the breath of the crew and can sense that the journey is already difficult.

One of the first moments subtle humor was drawn into the documentary was when the crew stopped at a primitive gas station.  As the commentator noted that this gas station was “without any of the usual safety considerations,” the shot cut from a leaky gas nozzle to a group of natives smoking cigarettes.  A similar sequencing strategy to depict the difficulties the crew endured in a way that was amusing to the viewer was used later when the “Russian-made supply vehicles” needed repairs.  The close-ups while the Mongolian drivers made repairs coupled with the slightly sarcastic tone of the commentary made this sequence comical and gave the viewer an idea of how frustrating it might have been to be in those conditions.

After weeks of searching for suitable footage with the help of a Mongolian expert tracker, the crew seemed to never catch a lucky break. However, as the commentator noted that “The rear ends of camels continued to dominate the team’s filming” and the cameraman stated the score as “Camels: 1, Film Crew: Nil,” the soundtrack hinted at the crew’s changing luck.  While the soundtrack was previously scarce and somber, the rhythm of the pipes and drums at this moment rolled along in the way that hinted at the winds of change.  This soundtrack died out as the natural sounds of camels eating snow and making mating calls were matched with the victorious camel close-ups.  While other filmmakers may have ended with a triumphant fanfare to signal the ending, this documentary more suitably ended with a camel mating call, which indicated the successful end of the film crew’s quest.

As a whole, the goal of making Planet Earth was to increase awareness of the Earth’s natural wonders, from the smallest insect to the biggest mammal.  In the behind-the-scenes look at capturing the footage of the Bactrian camel, the viewer got a glimpse at the frustrating and difficult journey the crew endured in order to create a sequence that only made up a few seconds in the “Desert” section of the documentary.   However, such footage was vital to the documentary in order to alert the public of a majestic creature on the verge of extinction.  Through simple editing and a slightly humorous tone throughout the “Wild Camel Chase,” the viewer is drawn into the story of the crew’s quest and is aware of the value of this footage.


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