Wildcat is the title of a new wildlife documentary that has a South American ocelotfeatured in this story of animal rescue in Peru. A young woman, Samantha Zwicker, leads a project to rescue wild animals threatened by poachers. The film has remarkable footage of the animals in the Peruvian forest, not only of the abandoned ocelots that are the highlight of the documentary. The film not only follows Zwicker and the rescues, but a young man who traveled to the Peruvian Amazon, Harry Turner, who was in the British army when he was only 18 and served in Afghanistan. His trauma there resulted in PTSD and suicidal behavior. The work between the two of them with the young ocelot cub gave him purpose, as well as the personal relationship they developed.
It does not appear to me if Zwicker knew how deep Turner’s depression is at the beginning when he arrives then later works with the ocelot cub. They begin to film their activities with the cub, and he is very attached to the animal. They work with professional filmmakers Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost to document what it takes to raise a cub, then train it to live in the jungle and survive. The footage of the wildlife photography is amazing, but then the intimate drama that exists at the rescue headquarters shows how it can take a toll on the humans. Separation from the animal they have raised is not easy as most animal lovers will know and perhaps identify with. The deep roots of depression and actions taken are not sugar coated in this story.
The filmmakers provide many shots of the cub as it is growing and learning. He may seem like a regular pet, but he isn’t. This is the Amazon jungle, and all sorts of other animals live there. The cat is out exploring, and the filmmakers are close by, capturing the cat escaping from near death at the jaws of the South American caiman hiding in the water. He survives, but it is nerve wracking for the humans.
The dangers of nature can also be triggers for Harry and the trauma he lives with. We are shown the wounds on the arm where he has cut himself. Eventually, his depression leads him to more suicidal behavior. This wears on the relationship with Samantha who has helped him heal, but not recover from his life experiences. Harry’s parents and younger brother visit in Peru, and they show their love. Although the couple doesn’t continue their relationship, the rescue work does. It is reported that footage from cameras mounted in the jungle offer scenes of the ocelot roaming free and surviving.
Turner is reported to have had some treatment and later moved to Ecuador to work again. Zwicker continues her rescue work with the animals and locals who she communicates with in Spanish. It would have helped to have had an interview or two with the Peruvians who are involved with the rescue. They are only seen as background help, but they do provide Zwicker with support that should be recognized.
The world premiere of the film was at Telluride earlier this year. Directors: Melissa Lesh, Trevor Beck Frost and they are Directors of photography, also crediting Harry Turner for his work.
Release Date: December 21, 2022. R rating and is 1 hour 46 minutes in duration. Streams on Amazon Prime Video beginning December 30, 2022. Source: Amazon Studios