|Automn and the black jaguar
|Gilles de Maistre
In the closing months of 2018, Gilles de Maistre delighted audiences, especially younger ones, with his directorial prowess in Mia et le lion blanc. In collaboration with zoologist Kevin Richardson, known as the man who whispered to lions, Gilles de Maistre created a story of heartfelt friendship between a young girl and a lion cub threatened by poachers. The film's success lies not only in its captivating narrative, but also in the breathtaking scenes in which the young protagonist interacts seamlessly with the lion, walking side by side and even sharing moments of affection as the lion grows.
The prospect of a sequel surfaced, but the challenge of recreating the magical connection between the young actress and the lion proved insurmountable after the unique, years-long filming process. Having completed two separate projects, the documentary Demain est à nous (2019) and the wildlife drama Le Loup et le lion (2021), Mia de Maistre and her co-writer Prune de Maistre have embarked on a narrative that closely mirrors that of Mia et le lion blanc. This time, however, the focus is on a jaguar, an equally wild creature caught up in a horrific trafficking operation.
Automn and the black jaguar takes viewers to the heart of the Amazon, following in the footsteps of Hope, the last of his kind struggling to survive in the wild. Autumn, played by Airam Camacho and Lumi Pollack, met Hope as a child in a local tribe. A tragic incident forced her father to move the family to New York, severing Autumn's bond with the majestic jaguar. When she learns of the imminent peril facing the creature, Autumn clandestinely boards a plane to rescue Hope, unwittingly dragging her biology teacher (Arrow's Emily Bett Rickards), an agoraphobic woman who depends on her pet hedgehog, into the perilous adventure.
While Automn and the black jaguar retains the impressive scenes of human-jaguar camaraderie reminiscent of its predecessor, it falls short of the profound impact of Mia and the White Lion. Lumi Pollack was chosen for her exceptional ease and curiosity about jaguars, qualities that are palpably reflected on screen. The film's main narrative revolves around Autumn and Hope's reunion, strategically positioned as the film's climactic moment. However, beyond these pivotal scenes, the plot falters, struggling to remain credible, exacerbated by the inclusion of a secondary character delivering comic gags. The film oscillates between moments of naiveté and humor, sometimes overshadowing its crucial messages about wildlife preservation and the relentless pursuit of ideals.
The film's structure is undeniably built around the intimate relationship between the young actress and the jaguar. The choice of Lumi Pollack, based on her ease and affinity with the jaguar, lends authenticity to their on-screen dynamic. It's worth noting that the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) expressed concern about the danger of a 13-year-old actress interacting with a real wild animal.
Yet, despite the film's laudable efforts to convey essential messages about wildlife conservation and the determination to stand up for one's ideals, it occasionally strays into constrained territory. This can be attributed, in part, to an artificial atmosphere resulting from the fact that the film was not shot entirely on natural sets. The film's attempts to raise the stakes and deliver hard-hitting messages sometimes result in over-emphasis, diluting the emotional resonance that Mia and the White Lion effortlessly achieved.
Automn and the black jaguar inherits the visual splendor and magnetic alchemy of its predecessor, featuring the captivating interaction between a young actress and a majestic animal. However, the film fails to maintain a convincing plot, occasionally falls foul of humor and struggles with an atmosphere that feels somewhat contrived, ultimately diminishing the emotional connection established in Mia and the White Lion.
Automn and the black jaguar
Written and directed by Gilles de Maistre
Produced by Gilles de Maistre, Jonathan Vanger, Catherine Camborde
Starring Lumi Pollack, Emily Bett Rickards, Wayne Charles Baker, Paul Greene Kelly Hope Taylor, Lucrezia Pini, Airam Camacho
Music by Armand Amar
Cinematography : Julien Rey
Edited by Julien Rey
Production companies : StudioCanal , Mai Juin Productions
Distributed by StudioCanal
Release date : February 7 2024 (France)
Running time : 100 minutes
Seen February 10, 2024 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 04 seat A18