Friday, August 17, 2012

Adopting a Beast as One of Their Own (Review)

Adopting a Beast as One of Their Own

‘True Wolf,’ by Rob Whitehair

Shadow Distribution
Koani the wolf pup being fed in “True Wolf,” a documentary by Rob Whitehair.

Crudely made and frustratingly vague, “True Wolf” documents the extreme efforts of Bruce Weide and Pat Tucker to lead “a wolf-centered life” as caretakers of a female wolf named Koani. Having raised the animal from a pup as part of a 1994 television project, the couple found themselves stuck with a beast that was unable to survive in the wild and that they could not bring themselves to euthanize. Things, you might say, were not thought through.

Cheerfully accepting the consequences of their actions, Mr. Weide and Ms. Tucker, a wildlife biologist, narrate the emotional and logistical challenges of what would become a 16-year commitment. Watching home-video footage of the pair Dumpster diving for raw meat behind a butcher’s shop, or spending four hours a day walking their charge in the glorious Montana countryside, it’s all too easy to concur with the veterinarian who pronounced them crazy. This delightfully candid couple don’t necessarily disagree, making no secret of their continued ambivalence over their choices. 

Unhappily, the complexities of their narration are not mirrored by Rob Whitehair’s filmmaking, which features spotty storytelling, awkward re-enactments and a soundtrack larded with yips and howls. Having devoted much of their lives to combating lupine myths by introducing Koani to wonder-struck schoolchildren, Mr. Weide and Ms. Tucker are ill served by a director who reduces the anti-wolf lobby to caricature and the debates over reintroducing wolves to the Northern Rockies to grossly biased clips.