Dir: Juha Suonpaa | Doc, Finland 80′
Until fairly recently the wild lynx was in danger of extinction. This astonishing cinematic documentary follows Hannu (Hannibal) Rantala whose interest in the elusive animal came about as an accident, quite literally. A time of convalescence forced him to stay indoors and now on his farm in the West of Finland he discovers the healing properties of nature in an environment home to all kinds of wildlife – including the Eurasian lynx.
Finding a dead lynx by the side of the road, Hannu bonded with the graceful creature and came to the realisation that the lynx, who lived in the area during his childhood, had made a comeback.
Hanno cuts an eccentric figure, to say the least with his long beard and shoulder-length hair. In some ways he’s just an ordinary Finn: taking saunas, playing his accordion and looking at FaceBook. But when we see him walking around naked and crouching in the snow with just a hat on, we start to wonder if he is half-man half-beast. Roaming around with a lynx mask Hannu is actually lying in wait to capture the enigmatic lynx in an undercover operation to record footage on a specially concealed camera covered in feathers. Soon twenty three such devices are in place for the project: “it’s not about resembling the bird, but about movement and such” says Hannu, who also makes use of a mirror to assist the process – with some startling results. Pheasants and a moose are spooked out by their reflections as their peer unwittingly into to mirror. Eventually Hannu identifies two females, calling them ‘Spot’ and ‘Grumpy Girl’ and a male ‘Joseph’.
Grumpy Girl eventually turns up, supple and lithe, the large feline has pointy ears, long powerful legs and hindquarters, a short tail dipped in black, spotted caramel-coloured fur with a white underbelly and eyes as big as headlights. Two cubs follow her, purring like cats. There are five cubs in total, protected from predators (foxes and wolves) by the father Joseph’s scent which he sprays liberally round their territory. But a skin disease, robbing the lynx of their fur, can also be life-threatening, sadly Joseph catches it, leaving him bare against the cold. Man is a predator too as we will discover in the final act of this enlightening eco-documentary that premiers at this year’s CPH:DOX, following on from Suonpaa’s 2013 outing Wolf Man.
Mixing black and white footage with colour Juha Suonpaa captures the enchanting early Spring landscapes of this remote part of the world, showing foxes, deer, moose and wild geese, among others, and finally the lynx whose enormous eyes are specially adapted to hunt at night.
In 2021 Hannibal and his friends launched a complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. The precedent states that lynx population management in Finland does not meet the directive requirements and is therefore illegal.
SPECIAL MENTION – NORDIC:DOX AWARD AT CPH:DOX | COPENHAGEN 2023