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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SIFF Sighting: TURTLE: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (documentary; United Kingdom)

Each year at SIFF, there is always a nature documentary that makes you want to leap from your chair and dedicate your life to saving our ocean's creatures. Last year it was The Cove, the year before that Saving Luna. This year, the front-runner for 'heart-tugging champion of the festival' is Turtle: The Incredible Journey.

When we meet the star of the show, a female loggerhead turtle named FeeBee, she has just hatched from the sand on a beach in Florida and is enduring a race similar to that of the classic Centipede video game to get to the water—through a maze of 'enemies' ready to devour her in one bite. We watch a crab obliterate one of her siblings, and large birds swoop down to capture a few more. Luckily, our heroine prevails and launches herself into the deep blue sea, learning to make her way alone, guided only by primal instinct.

Just like any traveler, FeeBee encounters beautiful, breathtaking sights along her route and also endures several layers of danger. Her foes come in the form of larger sea life, oil spills (which were all the more painful to watch in light of the recent accident on the Gulf Coast), human garbage, large boats and fishermen. One scene will leave those who use grocery store plastic bags with a horribly guilty conscience.

The miles she covers are truly impressive: from Florida she swims around the brisk North Atlantic, over to Africa, on to the utopian-like Azores (a particularly gorgeous part of the film) and finally back to her own beach, where she will become a mother.

The narration by Miranda Richardson is calming and helpful, but the score of the film bordered on intrusive (though I'll admit, I smiled when the Jaws-like notes arrived as a shark was infringing on FeeBee's territory).

There are also moments that aspire to a Disney-like preciousness that weren't necessary to establish our love for the main character. Turtles are endearing by their expressions alone—allowing us to follow one along on their dangerous, but meaningful journey of life certainly conjures up enough emotions that the "Oh, look! Babies!" routine isn't essential.

What I enjoyed more were the metaphorical implications of FeeBee's trip. We all struggle to fit in and survive when we're young, and by the time we learn the ropes, it's time for another cycle to begin.

Following this gentle creature's life was a beautiful way to illustrate that.

Turtle: The Incredible Journey screened at the 36th annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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