May 27, 2015

Swinging into the Monkey Kingdom

Ancient ruins....dangerous predators....Mother Nature...and...Monkeys!

DUM, DUM, DUM! Lights, Camera, Action!

Maya is a Toque Macaque whose new ambition in life is to provide her newborn son Kip with a secure life in the jungles amidst the other monkeys in the family. Her dream is threatened by the advent of a new tribe of monkeys, but her street smarts get her through the act of reclaiming what’s rightfully hers, and by extension, her son's.

This is the latest Disney Movie- Monkey Kingdom, released worldwide on 23rd April this year and filmed in the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, to which the Toque Macaque species is endemic.  The film, narrated by Tina Fey, opened in box offices around the globe to coincide with Earth Day and has already received great reviews. Word is that part of the box office proceeds will be donated to Conservation International. In turn, part of those funds will go towards scientific research in Sri Lanka where the documentary is filmed, and also towards tree planting, community engagement and the creation of new conservation areas in the island.

Directed by Mark Linfield, the nature documentary was filmed over the course of three years, because as he says, “There are pivotal moments in a monkey’s life that make or break its future and those are rare, and if you want to be there for those moments, you need a very good crew on the ground, for a very long time”.

The film has been applauded for its prowess in combining education with entertainment, so much so that one critic observes, “The filmmakers bring us to places and creatures we would never see otherwise, so we get education along with entertainment”. Little does he know how accessible these ‘places and creatures’ are to anyone visiting this gorgeous island nation!

Polonnaruwa, the 8th Century Kingdom is part of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle where there is so much rich heritage, nature and history preserved to this day. It is a city replete with ancient temples, ruins, monuments and sites that are historically priceless. Monkey Kingdom capitalizes on that and beautifully depicts how animals and neighboring communities coexist side by side.  With this film, Sri Lanka will no doubt now become a top spot for primate-watching. The island is home to 12 species and subspecies of primates, all of them endemic to the country. Research shows that all these species are under threat including the purple-faced languor and are also much sought-after by global primate-watchers.

What a lovely tale to tell about this UNESCO World Heritage Site. And now, the world hears it, and sees it – on film!

If you loved the movie, it’s time that you visit the actual “Monkey Kingdom” in Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa, where the real action takes place.