DisneyNature celebrates Earth Day by releasing a wonderful documentary about macaque monkeys. Set in Sri Lanka, it follows a group of monkeys living in a large stone ruin. But, in particular it focuses on a female monkey, named Maya. She has big ears, huge eyes and wild hair and has a difficult life, because in their hierarchy, she was lowly born.
In the group's pecking order, Raja the alpha male commands respect, and everything else it seems. He is catered to by three female monkeys and they provide his every need. He and his elite group get first choice of food, sleep under the shelter of an overhanging rock and gather closely for warmth. The rest of the clan get whatever is left. They have no shelter during monsoon season, sleep alone and get to eat whatever they can forage for themselves.
Maya accepts her life, until that is, she gives birth to baby Kip. She has to think of him and her determination in finding food to nourish him becomes her main concern. On her journey for food, she encounters other animals, some dangerous (a hungry leopard), some looking for shelter themselves (bears) and some beautiful (winged termites taking off in the forest sunlight). If you have very young children accompanying you, be aware that there is a couple of very coordinated fights with other monkeys over their home, the result of which is some bloodied monkeys and one left on the jungle floor.
We all know that monkeys are fun to watch. They swing from trees, scamper around, and generally are mischievous. The film has plenty of that, but I actually learned something about them that I never knew before. I found out about their caste system and I learned that they can swim. In fact, the best part of the film for me was watching Maya swimming with little Kip hanging onto her back, or the monkeys jumping into water from tree limbs high above the water. It was pretty terrific.
Directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill, the film is what we've come to expect from a Disney documentary. Narrated by Tina Fey, who brings a lighthearted tone to the macaque monkeys.