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Publicado: Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:57 pmAsunto: BBC: nueva serie de attenborough (reptiles y anfibios)
At home with Attenborough
Network knocks on the door of Sir David Attenborough, whose new series on reptiles and amphibians, Life in Cold Blood, launches at the end of the month.
Date: 09 January 2008 Author: Ed Yong
“What do you think this is?” asks Sir David Attenborough, handing me a heavy rock. We are sitting in his Richmond home and I have been drawn into playing a game of ‘guess the fossil’. The specimen turns out to be vertebrae from an ichthyosaur, which Attenborough found in his neighbour’s garden while looking for rocks for his aquarium. “I went over and there was this, just lying about!”
His fossil collection sits behind his sofa, which itself faces a large collection of wildlife paintings, tribal artefacts and one unexpectedly massive state-of-the-art television. From outside, the house is immediately identifiable for it lacks the patios and SUVs of its neighbours and instead has a winding path surrounded by lush greenery.
Attenborough is very much as you would expect from his on-screen appearances—knowledgeable, eloquent, a consummate storyteller and extremely excited about wildlife. He is as happy enthusing about a turtle mating frenzy as he is about the grisly habits of the caecilian, a burrowing worm-like amphibian whose young feed by tearing strips of fatty skin from their mothers. And what about the most interesting thing he’s eaten himself? “Big moth caterpillars in New Guinea. You put them on a fire and they come out like Twiglets.”
Life on and off the shelf
The turtle and caecilian sequences feature in Life in Cold Blood, his new series about the planet’s reptiles and amphibians. “These are the last major classes of terrestrial animals that we haven’t given a series to,” he explains. For Attenborough, the new programme is the culmination of the ‘Life series’ which began almost 30 years ago with Life on Earth. With solemn pride, Attenborough says that he wants to make a box set with a cumulative index to every species and topic covered in the whole lot. “I will be very pleased to be able to put that on a shelf. It would be superficial—for goodness sake, there’s only 40 hours of it—but that’s what the natural world looked like at the end of the twentieth century.”
His latest subjects, including snakes, lizards and frogs, might be less of a draw for some people than ‘meerkats and monkeys’, but he seems to relish the challenge. “In a way, it’s a great advantage because it means that a lot of their stories haven’t been told. It’s a measure of what, in my view, public service broadcasting should do. It shouldn’t just be about making programmes about popular animals.”
The trials of life
Attenborough speaks with a considered assurance and only once in the span of an hour do I make him pause when I ask him if a shoot has ever really disappointed him. After some thought, he finally describes a trip in 1955 to Aru Island in Indonesia to film birds of paradise. “We turned up in Jakarta with a camera, didn’t speak a word of the language and didn’t have a letter of introduction from anybody. It was ridiculous.” The recently independent government accused them of being spies and refused them entry—it seems that even David Attenborough can be defeated by bureaucracy. “We hastily thought of something else and went off to film Komodo dragons but we didn’t get that either. It was hopelessly amateur and cack-handed but quite good fun.”
Things have become more professional since then, not least in the equipment available. “In 1954, even the batteries you had to carry around to power your camera were enormous!” Now, the array of cameras and lenses allows him to film a wide range of subjects while being more restrained. “We’re more skilful these days at getting the sort of shots that we want without actually scragging the animal,” he says.
That new technology has also allowed the team to track live rattlesnakes and capture the first ever footage of a wild kill, an improvement over the careful editing and staged nature of previous sequences. This question of artifice in natural history programmes particularly flusters Attenborough. He is incensed by a newspaper article complaining that a spitting cobra sequence from the new series was set up with a captive animal. “I am not making an adventure programme. I’m not saying that I’m tramping through the wilderness and who knows what dangerous denizens I may encounter. I’m trying to demonstrate that there’s a snake that squirts [venom] through its fangs like a hypodermic needle. I’m not about to go traipsing around South Africa with a shot of anti-venom and a camera hoping to just come across a spitting cobra.”
As long as the behaviour itself is natural, Attenborough takes a pragmatic stance to filming techniques, but he draws the line at sentimentalism. “I remember one woman who wrote in after watching a lion kill a wildebeest and said that it was absolutely scandalous. It would be much better to [train] lions to eat grass!” He talks of the need for balance. “It would be improper and disgraceful if you just dwelt on the violence and yet, if you don’t show it, you are so distorting reality that you are producing fairytales. If people saw what we put out on the cutting room floor…”
The changing world
To him, animals are watchable enough without needing any help. “They are not trying to sell you anything and they’re not telling you lies. They are unpredictable, very often new, extraordinarily beautiful, dramatic and they share something with us, which is life. What more do you want from your television?” He sees his programmes as a way of restoring the fascination that “every child at the age of four or five” has with other living things. They allow people to “get back in touch, which is essential if they’re going to take responsibility for nature.”
Even so, Attenborough is doubtful about the fate of the world’s species, relenting that we may at best slow down the decline in biodiversity. “The thing that really appals me is that there are three times as many people alive on Earth as when I started making television programmes. The sheer space left for other species has been eaten up appallingly. Just that is enough to dampen any joie de vivre I have.”
His mood darkens further when I ask about his fame. For a man whose name is almost synonymous with natural history, Attenborough is astonishingly modest about his status, dismissing it as the result of “doing it forever and fairly regularly”. Today, he recognises that there is much tougher competition and recalls that an ad for a researcher on the Life of Birds attracted 3,000 applicants, a third of whom had doctorates. “I feel almost guilty because I started when nobody wanted to do it”
He regains his spark when asked to praise his fellow filmmakers and quickly compliments Simon King, Charlotte Uhlenbroek and Bill Oddie. “There’s no shortage of talent. All one asks is that they treat the animals with respect and if they treat them with knowledge and admiration then that’s a bonus.” As for himself, he has no plans to go quietly into the sunset yet and is currently scripting a programme on evolution to tie in with Darwin’s bicentennial in 2009.
Life in Cold Blood begins on January 28th, on BBC1.
adoro la forma de hacer documentales de este hombre. la pasion que demuestra por cualquier ser vivo es algo que me contagia. cuantos biologos hemos crecido con el y queriendo hacer loque el hace, en cierto modo! _________________ ..
Pobrecillo.. mi segundo referente en mi juventud tras Felix Rodriguez de la.Fuente.. tenia los.documentales que emitia la.2 granados en.vhs.. les hacia caratulas... que tiempos _________________ Los moderadores son unos falsos.
Baneado para siempre por ser facha, a juicio de Saisev.
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