If you’ve ever watched Planet Earth II (2016) or The Blue Planet II (2017), and became obsessed with stories of Mother Nature sung to the tune of Sir David Attenborough’s narrative heft, we have some new viewing material for you: Dynasties, which like the two aforementioned programs was co-produced by BBC Earth and Tencent Video, and began airing on Monday.
Filmed over four years in Africa, India and Antarctica, Dynasties is already being viewed as a milestone of natural history documentary due to its innovative filming style: animals are portrayed as movie-like characters with dramatic background music, while their subtle facial expressions are caught in minute detail with short focal lenses and handheld following shots.
“This is a turning point for our natural history documentaries, because the camera angles and the content are very different,” Mike Gunton, producer of Dynasties and senior executive at the BBC Natural History Unit, told film site Mtime at the Chinese premiere. “We had no idea who would win in the race, and who would die or survive in the end. This is why it’s so fascinating.”
In the first episode, the “leading actor” is an alpha male chimpanzee named “David” from West Senegal, who rules a troop of 32 and is constantly under threat from ruthless rivals. Over the next four episodes, we meet “The Survivor” Emperor Penguin from the Antarctic, “The Defender” Charm — a powerful lioness — from Kenya’s Masai Mara, “The Rebel” Blacktip, a painted wolf from Northern Zimbabwe, and “The Protector” Raj Bhera, a tigress in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in India.
In harsh living environments, the five leaders of Dynasties are determined to guard their territory (thrones?) from other species, and even their own bloodline. There is cruelty, warmth, treachery and conflict. The wild animals’ dramas might well be more interesting than many a human soap opera.
The interest of young Chinese viewers in documentary programming has increased in recent years, following the success of several documentaries — as we’ve reported previously. Tencent Video’s recently-released “胖滚计划” (Project Penguin) (there’s a penguin in Tencent’s logo) focuses on documentary-centered collaboration and original production. As part of this project, Tencent Video and BBC Studio recently announced in Cannes, France that the two organizations would work together to build an online Chinese community called “BBC Earth Tribe” for BBC fans in China. “Tribe” members are not only able to access a library of more than 650 hours’ worth of BBC programs, but also to communicate with these programs’ production teams through online and offline events.
David the Chimpanzee
“Tencent Video well understands the filming goal of each work, and they have enormous audiences, which can bring the BBC’s quality content to millions of viewers,” Gunton said at the Chinese premiere. “In this way, the BBC will receive more resources and can develop further in the Chinese market.”
He’s not wrong: the first episode of Dynasties has been viewed 26.9 million times on Tencent at this writing.
Cover image: Mtime
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