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DVD Review: Wild China

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China is a land of contrast. BBC’s lavish series Wild China explores that contrast with exceptional and extraordinary footage that cracks open the gates of one of the world’s oldest civilizations and explores the depth and beauty of the land.

Narrated by Bernard Hill, Wild China features six episodes that cover the everlasting link between China’s people and its natural surroundings. The diversity and culture are explored with affection and elegance, with a focus on the beautiful landscapes, lifestyles, and wildlife of this stunning and extravagant place.

The focus on the natural history of China is enthralling, but what sets this series apart from the BBC Natural History Unit’s normal impeccable fare is its focus on the relationship between the people and the land. Rice farmers are shown utilizing the land neatly and resourcefully, relying on the sparrows and the winds to illuminate their processes. The relationship between animal and man in China is important, as the emblematic nature of the beasts and birds is just as crucial as any purpose they may serve.

With the Chinese government fully on board to support a television series that would show a positive side to the country, the BBC was granted unprecedented access in 2005 to begin filming. BBC worked alongside state broadcaster CCTV to gather the footage, marking the first time that CCTV worked with a foreign broadcasting company in production.

Wildlife filming in China is virtually fictional. With Wild China, many Chinese people will be able to see portions of their land that they may never have seen before. Wildlife, both the rarest and the most common, is displayed with splendour and honour.

The filming for the series, like all BBC Natural History Unit productions, was a massive commission. Taking over 16 months and involving over half a million miles of travel on 57 separate filming trips to the country, the care and diligence shows through in each astounding frame. The crew shot over 500 hours of incredible footage in 26 of China’s 30 provinces. This really is unparalleled stuff.

The thriving green rice fields give way to the highest peaks in the land with unimpeachable beauty, as Wild China pokes its HD cameras into as many corners of the land as possible. The six episodes journey through the coldest plains, the hottest deserts, the densest forests, and the largest cities, creating a truly unforgettable trip.

The series is split over two DVDs. A minor quibble would be that the menu font is a touch too small and can be hard to read. Nevertheless, the packaging is lovely and the addition of traditional Mandarin subtitles is a nice touch to open the series up to a wider audience. Wild China also includes a special feature on “Hunting Dragons – A Making Of.”

With the Olympics soon to be a memory, Wild China provides a mesmerizing look at one of the world’s most mystifying and spectacular places. This series is a must-have.

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