Even if you're like me and not the biggest fan of the documentary genre, there's no question that the appetite for such films has grown exponentially over the years. It's kind of tricky not to have watched at least a couple, no matter your preference for genre. And yet, if done well, even people like me find themselves oblivious to their surroundings and completely engulfed by the happenings and information presented on their screens. I'm sure you've guessed by now that "The Hidden Tiger" is one such documentary - one that will pull you into its world completely indifferent if you enjoy docs or not. A good film is a good film - no matter the genre or content.
As the title implies, Michael Samstag, who wrote and directed, takes us on a journey rammed full of tigers. From the good old U.S. of A. to India and Nepal, "The Hidden Tiger" seems to know no bounds on where it leads us. It discusses sanctuaries, wildlife, and roadside attractions that feature tigers and don't pull any punches. The truth about tigers in the wild Vs. their domesticated counterparts is examined at great lengths. As a matter of fact? The bulk of this film focuses on that specific topic for a good chunk of the movie. And for a good reason. It's a topic that needs to be addressed and understood by the average Joe, who thinks it's pretty cool to have their picture taken with these majestic beasts. Some points of contention? The fact there are only around four to six thousand tigers left in the wild and approximately one hundred thousand in captivity. That still not enough? How about the knowledge that a tiger lives around twenty years but is only legally allowed to be used for "public interaction" for about four weeks. So what happens to it the rest of its life? "The Hidden Tiger" was not only incredibly informative but also visually captivating and entertaining. The short and sweet of it? I highly recommend this flick.
When it comes to the technicalities of this film, there isn't a whole lot to write. "The Hidden Tiger" is a documentary - it looks and sounds the part. Full of talking heads, including one many, will recognize from various MEME's around the web, Samstag's film is about as straight-laced a documentary as you can get. Its audience gets to travel to different sanctuaries around the world, listen to various experts, and obviously - get to take in a lot of beautiful imagery that is, of course, tiger-related. But what makes "The Hidden Tiger" stand out is that it has the look and feel of a big studio documentary with the heart of an indie. The visuals are striking, and the speakers are diverse and captivating to listen to. The information can at times be shocking - but I'm pretty sure that's the point. Education is key and providing it in a way that is also entertaining is priceless.
At the end of the day, I was more than a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. I learned a little, I marveled a little, and yes, reader, I was even repulsed a little at some of what I found out. Michael Samstag and his crew have pieced together not just an excellent documentary - but a great film in general. One that will have no problem holding the attention of pretty much anyone. Well done. Four stars.