Colombia: Wild Magic … in Dangerous Times – Movie Review

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The movie Colombia: Wild Magic is now showing on Netflix. It plays with English subtitles to the Spanish-language audio, but the narration is the least important element of the wild magic experience.

I had first seen this documentary on the big screen when it opened in Colombia in 2015. I watched it again on my laptop where it was as stunning as in the theater.

Images of Superlatives

Colombia: Wild Magic is a viewing experience of superlatives about a country of superlatives.

  • The second most biodiversity in the world
  • The most contrasting habitats
  • The highest coastal mountains in the world
  • The wettest areas on earth (meaning in the world)
  • Home to the strongest feline found in nature
  • The bird with the longest wingspan
  • The largest, most formidable snake
  • The most páramos in the world. To be technically accurate, Colombia has more than half of the world’s páramos. I can’t imagine there’s another country with the other half.

And then come the extremes. You know, when they say “more than” a lot.

  • More than 147 species of hummingbirds that can visit more than 2,000 flowers a day
  • More than 1,500 species of butterflies
  • More varieties of orchids than can be found anywhere else in the world
  • A fish that can jump more than two meters out of the water to catch its prey

There are also extreme disparities in scope: the previously mentioned biodiversity, of course, with distinct ecosystems from desert to rainforest; disparities in size, from footage of hummingbirds to whales; extremes in temperatures, which in certain areas can drop from 23° C (73 F) during the day to below 0° C (32 F) at night.

The movie also encompasses a unique visual disparity. It captures impressive territorial battles between hummingbirds in slow motion. The fights probably don’t last a minute. Next we see the real-time, slow-motion movement of a sloth. No special camera necessary.

It’s an immensely enjoyable viewing experience.

Wild Magic captures the wide diversity of plant and animal life in Colombia
Wild Magic captures the wide diversity of plant and animal life in Colombia

More than Just a Pretty Picture

But this movie is important, too. It’s not just about Colombia. It connects to the world. The páramos collect huge amounts of water from the atmosphere and feed large regions of human populations. The rain forests, which connect throughout South America, are frequently referred to as the earth’s lungs.

There is the migration of humpback whales in Colombia’s oceans. They arrive from as far away as Antarctica. A unique spot in the world, Colombia contains habitats that are home to fauna and wildlife seen nowhere else. Think of the country as one of the earth’s largest nature parks.

The majority of us will only see these wonders of nature on-screen. Thank God for Netflix and the producers of Colombia: Wild Magic.

Not Quite Wild

I would have translated the title from the original Spanish as “savage” instead of “wild.” The Spanish title is Colombia: Magia Salvaje. While salvaje correctly translates to wild, it also translates to savage. More than an untamed-ness, the movie displays a majestic savagery.

Nature is savage. The ferocious jaguar kills its prey by crushing its skull with powerful jaws. The hummingbird fight is savage and fierce, a surprising thing from those tiny birds we see as innocuous as they flit from flower to flower. There’s even a segment about a species of bird whose newborn chick throws its five-day-younger sibling out of the nest to ensure its own survival. The parents watch as it happens! Savage.

Even the salamanders get in on the act in Colombia: Wild Magic
Even the salamanders get in on the act in Colombia: Wild Magic

Man’s Savage Threat

And then there’s man, the other savage element of the movie. The encroachment of so-called civilization that is destroying the magical nature of Colombia isn’t wild at all. It’s methodical and seemingly relentless … and savage.

My Netflix viewing of the film coincided with an article in the Colombian magazine Semana that highlighted the increasing disappearance of Colombia’s wild and savage environment. Over the past 26 years, more than 6.5 million hectares of forestland has been lost. Approximately 2,194 plant species and 503 animal species are in danger of disappearing. The article cites areas once thought to be inhospitable and, by extension, safe from development. Environmentalists are discovering these regions are now inhabited by the two-legged beast and are not as protected as first thought.

The movie is a warning. We are destroying the biodiversity of Colombia and, by extension and connection, that of the world. Ugly images of mining and forest-clearing are shocking and disconcerting, especially after seeing the most beautiful images in the world.

The narration describes a global desire for gold, precious minerals, and exotic exports to feed the greed of man, as the camera shows us ugly, savage images of the too-heavy hand of man on the ecosystem.

This aspect makes the movie sad despite its resplendent beauty.

We need to become savage in ensuring the survival of a priceless biodiversity; I mean savage at the expense of our human activities and economy.

The Chiribiquete table mountains located in the Colombian Amazon
The Chiribiquete table mountains located in the Colombian Amazon

There’s Still Hope

Of course, you can’t send people home downtrodden – even when they’re watching from home. Colombia: Wild Magic does a great job of taking us back to the soaring heights of majesty to end on a note of hope. We cannot and must not give up hope.

The camera flies over Chiribiquete, an expansive nature reserve located in the Colombian Amazon region. The narration cites a historical era when man lived in harmony with nature. The message is clear. We, mankind, can return to balance, can still triumph over our savage, self-destructive propensities. We have to. Our home, or at least a room in our house – Colombia – depends on it.

See this movie! Then do what you can to help, regardless of what room in house Earth you live. And finally, maybe plan your next vacation to a remote natural paradise in Colombia where you can see wild or savage magic with your own eyes. From a safe distance, of course.

Colombia: Wild Magic was produced by Off the Fence, the Eco Planet Foundation, and Grupo Éxito.

Runtime: 1:35

Have you seen Colombia: Wild Magic? If so, tell us what you thought of it in the Comments section below.

About Greggo

Greggo is a freelance writer who has lived in Colombia since 2013. He came on a romantic whim and stayed. These days he spends most of his time curating the blog GrupoAmos on Colombia. When Greggo isn’t writing, he’s usually dancing Salsa or Tango.

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