“Deep in the Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story”

Writer / director Ben Masters‘ visually stunning wildlife documentary “Deep in the Heart” is a film about the landscapes, geography, and animals that makes Texas so unique. It’s a celebration of the state and its natural diversity, exploring every region from the famous Hill country, the Southern plains, the Panhandle, the Piney Woods, and the Gulf coast. The film touches on green political commentary that’s expressed with a very gentle hand, making it the type of project that has the potential to sway the opinions, hearts, and minds of anti-environmentalists and others who are uninterested in the conservation conversation.

The film is narrated by Matthew McConaughey, a proud, native Texan, and he’s the perfect choice. His voice is soothing yet authoritative, and he reads like an expert on the subject. The script is well-written and engaging, giving even more personality to the of abundance of adorable critters. Masters crafts his gorgeous footage in a way that builds excitement (watch as a newborn bat is stalked by a snake) and gets viewers close-up with the animals as they go about their daily routines.

The visual moments captured in this film are absolutely jaw-dropping. There’s rare video of an ocelot hunting, amazing scenes of blind catfish, and emotionally devastating footage of mountain lion traps. Masters turns his lens on some of the state’s most interesting animals, including redfish, bears, alligators, and dolphins. The most interesting segments are an extended exploration of the breeding patterns of the strange looking alligator gar, a massive fish that has lived in the rivers of Texas for over 70 million years, and a particularly effective piece on the horrible cruelty of steel-jaw leg traps (the film does not shy away from strong criticism of the backwards thinking of the state and its lack of science-based, humane control methods).

This documentary is appropriate for children, but it does feature some very sad moments (nature has a circle of life, after all). It’s academic and informative, but never dry or boring. The nature photography alone is spectacular, and the educational information presented feels new and exciting. It’s a great way to learn about the Texas ecosystems, animals on land and underwater, climate change, and the role we as humans have in both conserving and destroying the planet.

“Deep in the Heart” ends with a rousing call to action and appeal for conservation that feels particularly aimed at Texans and ranchers. “The future is our choice,” McConaughey reads with great emotion, as pictures of endangered and threatened animals flash on screen. This is a handsome nature documentary with a strong message that’s beautifully done.

By: Louisa Moore

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