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The Independent Critic

Jim Dutcher, Jamie Dutcher, Liev Schreiber (Narrator)
80 Mins. Est.
Image Entertainment/Discovery Channel (DVD)
2-DVD Set includes the Emmy Award-winning "Wolves at Our Door."
 "Living With Wolves" Review 
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Who is really the predator?

This was the question that kept flashing through my mind as I watched Living With Wolves, an Emmy-nominated film about the experiences of filmmakers Jamie and Jim Dutcher as vividly share their remarkable experiences living with the wolves of the Sawtooth Wolf Pack over the period of six extraordinary years.

Wolves have long been and continue to be characterized as vicious beasts, relentless predators, a threat to humanity and even worse. Children's stories, movies, songs and the news media have all portrayed wolves in a negative light. It would seem that only small pockets of humanity have bothered to look past the media portrayals and to search for the truth about wolves.

Jim Dutcher, a veteran documentarian and longtime explorer of the animal kingdom, is a remarkable cinematographer because his images aren't just about staging romanticized views of the wolves but actually achieving a level of intimacy in their lives. Living With Wolves is one of the most remarkable and intimate films ever created about wolves, a film that reveals the unique social structure of the wolf pack, the ways that wolf cubs are raised within that social structure and, with remarkable honesty, how wolves interact with fellow creatures and with humanity.

There is, of course, a disclaimer that must be acknowledge when viewing Living With Wolves. The Sawtooth Wolf Pack was a human initiated wolf pack, a pack essentially planted by Dutcher within a confined area and with an initial wolf that had already experienced, at least to a degree, the human experience. So, as a scientific experiment, it is important to note that this wolf pack is not a truly "wild" pack.

That said, Dutcher's footage is not only beautiful to behold but groundbreaking in the ways in which it shatters the image of wolf as predator and instinctively a killer. Jim Dutcher establishes a remarkable relationship with these wolves, not just the ones that he bottle fed as puppies but the ones with whom he planted the wolf pack and who'd experienced the wild. While even the staunchest wolf advocates would be unlikely to recommend initiating such encounters with wolves, the simple fact that Dutcher was able to live among them peacefully should, for any reasonable person, help to tear down the stereotypes of wolves that have existed for far too long.

There are scenes, many of them, that are simply breathtaking in their beauty and awe-inspiring in the ways that they capture wolf and man co-existing. There is one scene, in particular, where Jamie is so trusted by a mother wolf that she is permitted inside a wolf den to check on newborns. Amazing.

There is no question that Living With Wolves will have its naysayers, those who question the legitimacy of Dutcher's claims and the wisdom of his assertions. It isn't so much that Dutcher is trying to romanticize the wolf, but simply trying to tear down their reputation for being evil creatures. Narrated by Liev Schreiber and beautifully photographed by Dutcher himself, Living With Wolves captures the wild and playful, tender and loyal, caring and utterly remarkable world of the Sawtooth Wolf Pack.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 
    The Official Rating Guideline
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