velvet queen.jpg
the velvet queen

★★★★

documentary

REVIEWER: lyall carter

In the heart of the Tibetan highlands, an award-winning photographer guides a writer in his quest to document the infamously elusive snow leopard.

High up on the Tibetan plateau. Amongst unexplored and inaccessible valleys lies one of the last sanctuaries of the wild world, where rare and undiscovered fauna lives. Vincent Munier, one of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers, takes the adventurer and novelist Sylvain Tesson (In the Forest of Siberia) with him on his latest mission.

For several weeks, they’ll explore these valleys searching for unique animals and try to spot the snow leopard, one of the rarest and most difficult big cats to approach. Deeply moving images of pristine landscapes and the marvelous creatures populating Tibet with original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

The Velvet Queen is unlike any wildlife documentary you’ve ever seen. Instead of only being a neatly packaged animal stacked feature, The Velvet Queen involves the humans behind the camera too. In doing so it delivers not only a film with gorgeous animal filled shots, but a poetic and existential experience leaving the audience with deep questions to ponder concerning their place in the world alongside the other creatures that inhabit it. 

The cinematography of The Velvet Queen is glorious to say the very least. Long sweeping shots of the sparse, harsh landscape, the silhouettes of three bears as they descend a mountaintop, and looking deeply into the eyes of an owl are some of the best images splashed across the big screen this year. 

The balance of Munier’s photography experience as he waits patiently for an animal to appear and Tesson’s poetic musings helps to not only ground the film but to give it a grit and depth. We also get to see how these films are painstakingly made as Munier and Tesson wait patiently for days on end in the snow to capture the perfect shot. 

The Velvet Queen is unlike any wildlife documentary you’ve ever seen. While it has gorgeous shots filled to the brim with animal life, The Velvet Queen involves the humans behind the camera as well which helps to leave the audience with deep questions to ponder concerning their place in the world alongside the other creatures that inhabit it. 

★★★★