You’ll need a strong stomach to sit through Austrian auteur Ulrich Seidl’s brutal documentary exploring the horrors of trophy hunting
Our relationship with beautiful wild animals, and why some of us kill them for sport, is put under the spotlight in this grim, challenging documentary from Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl ('Dog Days', the 'Paradise Trilogy'). Without a voiceover, Seidl presents a small group of Austrians, including a young family of four and an older couple, who are on holiday in Namibia to hunt wild game, including zebras and giraffes.
All of them talk freely to camera about the sport and what they gain from it, and we follow them into the bush at they stalk and kill their prey. We also meet a seriously unendearing middle-aged white couple who own and run the commercial hunting 'farm' where they're holidaying, and observe (but never hear from) the black Namibian men who skin and gut the dead animals, chewing on the animals' meaty bones. This is not a film you'll want to watch with your dinner.
Seidl's filmmaking style here is much the same as in his dramas: he has a sardonic eye for odd symmetries and blackly comic moments. You might assume that given the topic, his tone would be liberal and accusing, but that's not quite Seidl's thing. He's more interested in penetrating this extreme world and leaving the questioning to us. And he gives us a lot of time to think during two long, extremely difficult scenes of animals being skinned, first a zebra and then a giraffe.
It's hard to imagine anyone feeling fond of the subjects in 'Safari', but you might leave with new thoughts about why we sentimentalise some animals and not others, and why some of our interactions with animals disgust us more than others. The word grotesque doesn't even begin to describe this film.
Cast and crew