Interview: ‘Wildcat’ Directors On The Healing Power of Nature

When heading into a documentary title Wildcat it seems natural to anticipate a story tracking the challenges of an animal, as has been done many times before. While Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost‘s documentary does take us an engaging journey through the Amazon rainforest, what we find there transcends well beyond just another animal’s tale.

The documentary, Wildcat, now available for streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video, is a much more layered story that ventures into unexpected territories. We do witness the exciting and beautiful story of Keanu an adorable, orphaned ocelot but the more affecting aspect of the documentary pertains to the couple, Harry Turner and Samantha Zwicker, who foster the animal in an attempt to reintroduce it to the wild. Harry is a young vet struggling to fit back into the world after the traumatic experiences of war. As he and Samantha help Keanu, the animal opens the door for healing of their own.

Awards Radar spoke with Lesh and Frost about the film which takes viewers on quite the emotional trek. Lesh described how it affected them and influenced their goals for the doc. “I don’t think you can make a movie like this and not be moved. Personally being there, filming it, the goal was always to transfer that emotion to the audience; the things that we experienced and the ways that we were so in love and invested in this story, and these people and these animals in these places,” said Lesh. “How can we transfer that to the screen and have people walk away with these same kind of ideas that these are powerful places and connections and maybe not just for the state of the world, in our planet and for fresh air and for clean water, but also for our mental and spiritual well being? We need these places and we should do something to fight for them.”

Heading to the Amazon Rainforest, Frost was surprised to find its effect on people including him. Like Harry, Frost suffers from depression, but his takeaway from making the film is not what you would expect. “For me this idea that nature is a place where people go to heal, in all my time traveling around the world and visiting different conservation sites and research sites, I found that there were a lot of like minded people like kindred spirits in these places,” explained Frost. “It began began to dawn on me that these wild areas and wild animals attract a certain type of person. So I was intrigued by this notion that you can find healing there that you can’t find elsewhere.”

When making a film in the rainforest, Frost and Lesh were often asked about challenges created by thee external conditions of the shoot; the weather, the dirt, the bugs. Frost explained the biggest challenges were internal rather than external. ” the And, you know, “The answer that we always give is that was really not the challenge, the challenge was the emotional side of things, the emotional impact of making a film like this, and, and dealing with the level of trauma that both Harry and Samantha had in their lives so early on. Especially when you’re dealing with two young people who are still really trying to sort out how their lives will look with with their respective backstories.”

Wildcat does challenge the viewers, while cuddly animal story will surely satisfy many viewers, the human story discovered along side will certainly be what connects with viewers, planting the seeds for conversations about current perspectives on depression, the environment, and life as a whole. Watch the full interview for much more insight into the power of the nature, Harry & Keanu’s story, the incredible amount of travel to and from the shooting locations, plus a surprise visit from a four-legged guest.

Wildcat premiered for streaming today, exclusively on Amazon’s Prime Video.


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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