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01 Apr. 2014

Lemurs: seeing is believing


MADAGASCAR 3DThe world of lemurs is a continent away but their peculiarities and proclivities are as familiar as anything we know in the human paradigm, reported to date back some 60 million years, according to a new documentary– Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar–narrated by Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, March of the Penguins, Invincible). Freeman takes us inside the little known MADAGASCAR 3Dworld of the intelligent and endangered, multi-faceted creatures of numerous species.

Captured up close and within their natural habitat on the island of Madagascar, “Lemurs: Madagascar” highlights the tireless efforts of trailblazing scientist Dr. Patricia C. Wright and her lifelong mission to help these strange and adorable creatures survive in the modern world.

Presented in IMAX, the film is absolutely gorgeous touching all sensory perception, delivering a 40-minute stunning presentation that will have you wanting to travel abroad to continue the journey of discovery and enlightenment.

More that entertainment, “Lemurs: Madagascar” is educational and eye-opening, alerting mankind of the need to preserve these timeless creatures for their sakes and ours. The science, while far-reaching compels and begs questions, one after another.

The synopsis offers answers—

On a remote island in the Indian Ocean special animals exist that may best be known as cartoon characters; however, these very real and spectacular creatures have an amazing story that started over 60 million years ago with a journey across the sea from Africa. It is widely held that a small group of proto-lemurs, one of the earliest primates, were washed out to sea in a storm and drifted to Madagascar on a floating raft of vegetation. At the time there were no predators in Madagascar—or even other mammals and birds—so lemurs took over and evolved into hundreds of different species, some as large as a gorilla, before humans, traveling from Borneo, first arrived in the lemurs’ gentle paradise 2,000 years ago.

MADAGASCAR 3D

Now, over 90% of the forests have been destroyed and all the giant lemurs, along with many other taxa (plural of taxon: class, order, family, genus, species, and subspecies, or race) are extinct. More than three quarters of the lemurs that remain are at risk of disappearing from our planet forever—and taking with them important details of primate evolution.

Morgan Freeman, Dr. Wright and the filmmakers shared insight and perspective during a press conference at the Ritz Carlton at L.A. Live —

Why lemurs?

Morgan Freeman and a lemur

Morgan Freeman and a lemur

Morgan Freeman: I don’t know lemurs; this is the first time I’ve had this close of connection with them; however, I have a friend who has a place in the Caribbean and he raises them so on a visit to his place about a year or so ago, I was introduced to them up close and personal.  They are endangered and he’s doing what he can to help rejuvenate their population…I got a little bit of history about them then.  They are terrific little creatures.

Dr. Patricia C. Wright: There’s several reasons why I like them. One, they’re so special and like nothing else on earth; they’re beautiful animals but each one is so different; there’s 103 difference species. Some eat bamboo, some eat seeds, some eat leaves, some eat insects but each one of the species does its own thing.  Every one of them is cute in some way….there’s many reasons, but the reason I stayed in

Dr. Patricia C. Wright with a lemur

Dr. Patricia C. Wright with a lemur

Madagascar as long as I have working with the lemurs is partially because they are so endangered; 91% of them are either threatened or critically endangered and I feel that I can maybe do something. I think this film can do something so that they survive into the future.

How were you able to capture their personalities?

Drew Fellman (the film’s writer/producer): You go to Madagascar and see for yourself…it’s the best way. Much of what you see in this movie is what Pat’s been saying for 30 years.  When we scouted Madagascar, we saw things that were amazing to us; if people saw it [and they will in this film] they will see and perhaps understand something about these animals and hopefully have the same extraordinary experience that we had watching them.

Drew Fellman with a lemur

Drew Fellman with a lemur

It’s really just as simple as that; it’s us spending time there and then getting together and talking about all the great things we saw, the highlights and that’s what we used to build the movie around.  The scenes in this film including the dancing lemurs, the singing lemurs, the various species all just blew our minds and it’s all real in Madagascar. Lemurs are very intelligent.

What is a lemur’s life span?

Dr. Wright: Their life span in the wild is over 30 years, somewhere between 30 and 32. The mouse lemurs are around 10 years and older. A mouse lives about two years, mouse lemurs live probably 12 years, so there really is a great difference with primates.

As for the scientific study of lemurs, when I was initially approached to be the scientific advisor to this film, at first, I was a little skeptical because I didn’t want the lemurs being made fun of; I wanted people to really understand how beautiful they are. Understand how their lifestyle is one to be respected. When I met with the scientists attached to this film and spent some time with them, probing into their hearts, asking the right questions, thinking about how the animals would actually be treated, I felt these guys were good. So it didn’t take me long to figure that out and I was very proud to be part of this team.

Why does the documentary film format suit you so well?

Morgan Freeman: Well, in particular, the educational value in this film is what comes first; I’ve always thought that the most effective tools we have for disseminating information and education is television and film. People are glued to television– our children –we can’t get them out into the parks they are so into television. If we could find the right stuff to present to them while they are watching television, I’m of the belief that we can disseminate useful information concerning the planet and the diverse biology of

David Douglas directs Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

David Douglas directs Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

it. I’ve sort of dedicated myself to being available for anything that helps along that transfer of knowledge.  As far as the art of documentaries, I don’t know anything about it. But if someone wants to do one about a subject that I’m interested in, then yeah, I’m available.

Use of 3D IMAX to make this documentary…

David Douglas (the film’s director): It’s a perfect subject for 3D…wildlife is great and the forest is a great place to shoot in 3D; this is one place where 3D brings a special dimension and doesn’t draw attention to itself.

About the author

Sandra Varner has had her hands on the pulse of the entertainment industry and lifestyles coverage for decades, staying current, always.

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