Film Review: Medicine of the Wolf (2015)

Through Medicine of the Wolf Julia Huffman gives voice to the forlorn inhabitants of Minnesota’s wolf country. After forty years of protection, wolves have been de-listed as “endangered species”. What follows is a sudden encroachment on their habitat by men with guns.

This movie is a desperate plea for help to protect the mighty wolves and let them roam the forests freely. But it’s so much more than that.

The movie’s cinematography is breathtaking. A few events seemed a bit forced, but the interviews and the wolf footage made me appreciate these intrepid hunters even more. Simply put, if you watch this movie it will almost certainly turn you into a Wolf Fan. In the short 1 hour and 14 minutes you can get a taste of how is it to look a wolf in the eye, and befriend him, like he befriended us all these 33.000 thousand years ago.  

From the very first moment we are transported into the heart of nature and feel the pulse of the vast pine forests of Minnesota. For a city dweller, who hardly remembers what a mountain path looks like, this feels almost like an alien world. It whispers to you that behind the corner deli and the local café, there is a frigid land where humans don’t belong. This, however, doesn’t stop them from trying.

One of them is Jim Brandenburg who appears on the screen many times throughout the movie. He grew up on one of the farms in the south of the state where he used to hunt foxes and other animals. That was what everyone was doing and it was a way of gaining respect in the community. But in his twenties, Jim traded his gun for a camera and in 1978 started photographing nature for the National Geographic Magazine.

Now he lives in a small snow-covered hut, far away from humans and closer to wolves – creatures he really loves. Jim’s documentary “White Wolf” which premiered in 1986 at Sundance is a true masterpiece which helped to change people’s perspective on wolves. It’s heartbreaking too see him reminisce about wolves he knew for years. They were his closest friends who ultimately met their demise due to the new “push for hunt” in Minnesota. These creatures can run up to 38 miles per hour and hunt for animals ten times their size (compare this to the mere 27 mph of Usain Bolt – the fastest man on earth and a brand-friendly personality). 

The movie directs our attention to portrayal of wolves in culture as feral and bloodthirsty creatures. The Wolverine, The Wolf Man (1941), and the werewolves ploughing the night with their fangs blood-red… It’s true, some farmers lose their cattle because of wolf attacks. But since the first record in 1869, only 6 people died because of wolves in Minnesota. That’s a staggeringly low number and as John Vucetich, the ecologist who appears in the movie says: “You’re much more likely to die from a thunder strike than from a wolf attack”. And what about the casualties on the canine side? Since the change in law, at least 119.

In the TV show House of Cards, Frank Underwood famously says that: “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.” This is a motto espoused by humanity for far too long. We are already at the top of the food-chain and now it’s time to relinquish the barbaric custom of hunting animals – especially the majestic and endangered ones like wolves. Huffman’s movie is a step forward in this strife. 

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