Director: Trevor Frost, Melissa Lesh | Time to play: 106 minutes | Year: 2022
Barely dry behind the ears was eighteen-year-old Harry Turner when he went to Afghanistan years ago as a soldier. There he experienced the most horrible things and witnessed heartbreaking scenes. He made Turner stop working for medical reasons. With severe depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome, he went to the jungle of Peru to end his life.
In the Amazon he met Samantha Zwicker, an American, a biologist who had set herself the goal of setting up a foundation to save the rainforest from destruction. Turner decided to join her and focus entirely on raising the ocelot kitten Khan, with the goal of eventually releasing the feral cat into the wild. As Turner continued to feel better, disaster struck, and Khan’s life and Harry’s sanity were threatened.
Wildcat Contrary to what the title suggests, it barely revolves around the cats that Harry and Samantha are trying to groom for a solitary life in the wild. The ocelots they breed only serve as therapy for Harry to overcome his psychological ailments. In brief video snippets you can watch the cats grow and Harry grow in his awareness that life is worth living after all.
Without too much cynicism, you could call Harry’s search for happiness and reflection a huge ego document. And that is Wildcat actually too, because the stages through which the war veteran passes are a succession of ups and downs. Harry is unfamiliar with a healthy dose of self-pity and a sense of theatrics. That’s not surprising when you consider what his eyes had to see in Afghanistan.
Which Wildcat is an ego-document will only be objectionable to the viewer who believes that he is going to see a documentary about nature, in which man completely disassociates himself from the fast-paced modern world and manages to find a new happiness at the base of human existence. More problematic is the way that documentarians Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh have put things together. It won’t make you wiser at first.
How Harry was when he arrived in Peru and how he found Samantha on his way remains unclear. This also applies to the nature of your relationship. Now everything doesn’t have to be presented in bite-sized chunks, but Trevor and Lesh just very gradually provide context and background. This lack of structure detracts from the depiction of Harry’s mental development, especially when an emotional relapse is followed by a lighter scene.
Frost and Lesh hopefully unwittingly undermine the seriousness of Harry’s grievances through their montage. What is also significant is his ingenuity. For example, he wants to teach Keanu the ocelot not to trust people once they leave him alone. That the animal has to depend on a human being during its adulthood. Also, Harry tells him that the cat must behave like a wild animal. Of course he is not and the many metaphors are lurking.
Considered on its own merits Wildcat a penetrating documentary that skilfully dodges the necessary clichés of the human being who rediscovers himself. A little more balance in the structure could have made this an unforgettable document about a troubled young man who is lost and can’t be found anywhere. Large on Harry’s chest is tattooed “Nothing else matters.” That is the essence of this portrait: if you can no longer find yourself, everything else no longer matters.
Wildcat can be seen in first video.