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CONSTANTINOS PSILLIDES picks four nature documentaries that will blow your mind


Last week Netflix dropped Chimp Empire, a four-episode documentary about chimps in the African forest of Ngogo. The streaming platform hits yet another home run with this stunning, original documentary, eying the coveted Oscar once more. A revolution in film-making, Chimp Empire is definitely worth your time, along with the rest of these suggestions.


The Year Earth Changed  – Apple +

A couple of years ago, when the world realised how much of a threat Covid-19 was and governments issued global lockdowns, the good people at the BBC Natural History Unit saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: study the impact the absence of humans had on the environment. The unit mobilised its worldwide network of scientists and cinematographers and tasked everyone with filming and monitoring how animals responded to not having people around. The result is an absolutely stunning documentary, clearly showing how human interference has harmed the natural world and how quickly Nature can bounce back. Boasting the trademark pristine cinematography of the BBC Natural History Unit and the soothing voice of David Attenborough, The Year the Earth Changed tells an almost unbelievable tale of a comeback. Deer walking through empty highways, sea turtle population previously in decline booming because there were no people on the beaches, whales and birds coming up with new sounds and songs to communicate, no longer blocked by the pervasive sound of boat engines and sonar.

The documentary doesn’t advocate for the human absence but invites us to consider ways to minimise our environmental impact.


My Octopus Teacher – Netflix

A fair bit of warning here: if you like eating octopus, chances are you will hate yourself and never eat your favourite dish again. This award-winning documentary by James Reed and Pippa Enlrich focuses on the improbable friendship developed between Soth African filmmaker and conservationist Craig Foster and a female octopus in a kelp forest off the coast of South Africa. Foster spots the octopus randomly one day and returns to the same spot every day to see whether the octopus will ‘remember’ him.

Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 93rd Academy Awards, the film captivated audiences with the relationship between Foster and the octopus, portrayed as an intelligent and curious creature with a complex emotional life. The film explores the octopus’ behaviour, the challenges it faces in its natural habitat and how those challenges relate to her new human friend. It pulls heartstrings with the ease of an experienced cellist, delivering some truly incredible moments. If you don’t get teary-eyed during the hugging scene, you should ask God for a refund cause you are clearly lacking a soul.


Prehistoric Planet Season 2 – Apple +

Apple TV’s massively successful, groundbreaking series returns on May 22 for a second season, following rave reviews for the first. Prepare for this cinematic wonder by watching season one and be transported 66 million years ago to when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

Prehistoric Planet is a captivating documentary series that takes viewers on a mesmerizing journey back in time to explore the ancient world of dinosaurs, mammoths, and other prehistoric creatures. With its breathtaking visuals, engaging narrative and state-of-the-art CGI, Prehistoric Planet delivers a thrilling experience, making you feel like you time-travelled. The series also acts as a knowledge conduit of all newer developments in palaeontology, often debunking popular misconceptions about dinosaurs and other creatures of the era.


Chimp Empire

This stunning, four-part series tells the story of Ngogo National Park chimpanzees, the largest chimpanzee society in the world. Award-winning documentarian James Reed (fresh off his success as half of the directing duo behind My Octopus Teacher spent a year in the Ngogo jungle, filming the chimpanzees daily, aided by scientists from the Ngogo Chimpanzee Project, bringing to the screen an incredibly complex social interactions between the chimps, the brutality of the everyday in the jungle and the fragility of life. It’s raw, highly engaging and allows for a glimpse into a world that is far more intricate than we think.

The story behind the series is that the Ngogo forest is dominated by two rival groups of chimps, the Centrals and the Westerners. War has been slowly brewing between the factions over three decades, culminating in a final showdown between them. Palace intrigue, shifting alliances and petty squabbles, along with unconditional love and communal responses to tragic events make Chimp Empire a must-watch for everyone.

Narrated by actor Maharsala Ali, this series will stay with you for a long time and change the way you see chimps forever.


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