“The Last Extinction” begins with the rattling statement that more than 150 species go extinct every 24 hours. It’s a number that is difficult to fathom. The process of extinction is typically thought of as long and slow. When a species dies at such a rate will its loss even be noticed?
Directed by Reilly Archer-Whelan, “The Last Extinction” seeks to show the interconnectedness of nature and how the loss of one creature can have a rolling negative effect on the ecosystems of all.
Set in South Africa, the film is a visual masterpiece. Viewers will be mesmerized by the strikingly close shots of animals such as elephants, giraffes and lions in their natural habitats, as well as the vastness of the African landscape captured from above using aerial cinematography, a vantage point few will get to experience in their lifetime.
The pace of wildlife films can sometimes feel painstakingly slow, particularly if a director lingers for too long on one specific moment, like an animal feeding on its prey. “The Last Extinction” doesn’t suffer that fate. The 18-minute short is delivered in such a way that viewers will be glued to the screen as seven species, one after the other, are linked and dramatic moments are unrolled. Additionally, the editing is dazzling. Young people, if being introduced to the topics of extinction and climate change for the first time, will be transfixed by the combination of imagery with the film’s vibrant tempo.
Importantly, even though death is of course part of extinction and life itself, there is nothing overly gory depicted in the film, so those who may be sensitive to such material needn’t worry, you can keep your eyes open.
While the wildlife is the star of the documentary, the film’s narrator—George Kirkinis, a South Africa-based filmmaker and writer, shines as the voice highlighting the brilliance of the animals and conveying the urgency of the ecological emergency they face.
“The Last Extinction” is as jarring as it is stunning in its representation of what we have and what we stand to lose. Viewers will walk away with a profound sense of responsibility to help change the course of climate change and biodiversity loss or risk one day not only seeing the animals they love disappear but the human species added to the tally of all that was great that was lost.
See “The Last Extinction” screening May 23rd at Cinema Nova as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival’s spotlight on Shorts. For ticket information, visit: cinemanova.com.au.