If you want to experience some serious heartwarming feelings while also boosting your knowledge of the collision between the natural and social worlds, you must see “Pandas,” showing now at the Saint Louis Science Center OMNIMAX®.
The film centers on the Chengdu Panda Base in China, where scientists are working to restore the wild giant panda population by breeding these endangered animals and introducing the cubs into the wild. Due to loss of habitats, primarily from humans taking over the space, pandas have been forced to move higher into the mountains. In addition, their habitats are being pushed apart by human development, so a lack of genetic diversity is also making reproduction increasingly difficult for this species.
“Pandas” follows Qian Qian (pronounced chen-chen), a curious female cub born in captivity at the Chengdu Panda Base, as she gains the skills necessary to survive in the wild and then as she transitions from her protected habitat to the mountains of Sichuan. A team of Chinese and American scientists helps Qian Qian as she struggles for survival in the wild, fraught with perils previously unknown to the inquisitive, increasingly independent bear. Without giving away any “spoilers,” I will say there are several hold-your-breath moments in this documentary.
Shot on IMAX® cameras, the film features tons of great close-up shots of the giant pandas, which are reminiscent of roly-polies as they play, tumbling and rolling around with a seeming lightheartedness fit for any carefree child.
The film also shows parallels between orphaned black bears in New Hampshire and the captive-born pandas in China. Watching both species of bears interact with their human caretakers much like dogs do in families around the world offers viewers a sense of awe and wonder. Though the bears were once in captivity, who would’ve thought wild adult bears would interact with humans in such a friendly manner?
This isn’t just a typical educational documentary either. Rife with breathtaking videography and a danceable soundtrack — “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top and the Motown hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” for example — this film is truly entertaining yet, at times, emotionally onerous as you cheer on Qian Qian in her fight for survival.
Prepare for a lot of laughter and a few tears when you watch “Pandas” at the Saint Louis Science Center OMNIMAX®. For more information and tickets, visit slsc.org/omnimax/pandas/. M