National Geographic : 1992 Jul
On Television Larger Than Life: IMAX and the Mountain Gorilla Half man, half beast-so it was said in 1902 after a German Army officer sent home some intriguing bones from deep in central Africa. Ninety years later a new film brings that creature-the endangered mountain gorilla - to life with astonishing realism. "The images are so detailed," says execu- tive producer Christopher Parsons, "that you can almost see individual hairs on a gorilla's back." Produced by Imax Corporation in association with the National Geo- graphic Society, the 40-minute "Mountain Gorilla" uses giant- screen technology to immerse the viewer in the sights and sounds of the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda-and in the daily life of one gorilla family. Key to the picture quality is a film frame three times as large as the normal70-millimeter movie frame. Projected onto screens up to eight stories high, the images fill the viewer's field of vision. Fidelity is also achieved through sound: A six- channel, four-way audio system adds to the sensation of observing the animals in the wild. Even director Adrian Warren was surprised at the first footage pro- jected onto the big screen. "It was just like being back with the gorillas-only without the rain and stinging nettles." Fewer than 350 mountain gorillas survive in a 250-square-mile area high in the Virungas. Straddling Rwanda's borders with Uganda and Zaire, this wilderness lies within one of Africa's most densely inhabited regions and provides a tenuous home base for the gentle apes. To capture their ways, the film crew (left) made four trips to the Virungas, sometimes working near Karisoke Research Centre, founded by the late Dian Fossey. Each day during the six-week bouts of film- ing, they lugged massive equipment-the camera and its accessories weigh 170 pounds-up steep, muddy slopes. "I was glad to do that for the gorillas," Warren says of the arduous climbs. As if those were not obstacles enough, on the final visit a skirmish between rebel forces and govern- ment troops halted filming. All the struggles to make the IMAX film are themselves the subject of a documentary film for television. National Geographic EXPLORER's "Mountain Gorilla: On Location" tells the story behind the IMAX project. "MOUNTAIN GORILLA: ON LOCATION," EXPLORER, TBS SUPERSTATION, JULY 5,9 P.M. ET. IMAxiOMNIMAX THE- ATERS ARE IN SCIENCE CENTERS, MUSE- UMS, AND THEME PARKS WORLDWIDE. NATI ONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER AIRS ON TBS SUPERSTATION . SUNOAYS AT 9 P.M . ET . NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SPECIALS AIR ON PBS; CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS.