Film Review: King of Beasts

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It’s nearly impossible for a documentary to remain purely objective. Even without narration, the director is still choosing who to interview, what to film, and what to leave out in the editing room. The filmmakers still have a stance, whether or not they choose to reveal it to the audience. Nonetheless, Tomer Almagor and Nadav Harel come very close to presenting the subject of King of Beasts in an unbiased light. Their protagonist is Aaron Neilson, a middle-aged white man who makes more than a livable income as a hunting guide in the Colorado mountains. He leads a relatively simple life, and gives his girlfriend shit about how much she’s spending at the nail salon. Meanwhile, he’s planning his fourteenth trip to Tanzania so that he can add to his prodigious lion trophy collection. He kills plenty of other animals too, but lions are his passion. They’re the reason he spends thousands of dollars and flies 9000 miles. He reminds me of my daughter with her endless amassing of plushies. It would be amusing, were it not for the fact that his toys were once majestic living creatures. But he maintains that his hobby is misunderstood. They have to go to Tanzania and see it for themselves. Through this film, we can do just that. And guess what? It’s still not a great look.

Almagor and Harel offer all this without comment – there are no titles or narration in King of Beasts. It’s a true fly-on-the-wall account. Neilson tells the camera that he just wants a chance to show things from his side. The animal rights activists who admonish him on the internet haven’t met a lion up close. They haven’t felt the thrill and righteousness of knowing you’re at the top of the food chain. He respects the animals, he says. But it’s his god given right to take their lives. He’s not murdering Simba from The Lion King. These animals are nothing but natural born killing machines. On top of that, he’s totally helping the people of Tanzania by bringing them his tens of thousands of dollars…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!