Running Wild (1995)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  3 March 1995 (South Africa)
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A filmmaker determines to document the story of a conservationist who is struggling to save wild leopards in Africa from extinction.


(as Duncan McLachlan)


(story), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Varty ...
Elmon Mhlongo ...
Christine Shaye
Jack Hutton
Norman Anstey ...
Van Heerden
Themba Ndaba ...
Lester (as Thembe Ndaba)
Aimee (as Renee Estevez)
Vusi Kunene ...
Jimmy / Head Anti-Poaching
Tidi Modise ...
Aimée Leigh ...
Global Explorers Receptionist (as Aimee Lee)
Stephen Mitchell ...
Awards Presenter (as Stephen Miles)
Lakakeny Ole Sukuli ...
Maasai Speaker
Leperes Yiamai ...
Maasai Messenger


Christine Shaye works for the struggling television station Global Explorer. In an effort to find a good documentary subject, Christine travels to Africa to meet documentary maker John Varty. She finds out he has been following a mother leopard for the last twelve years and is convinced she has found the best project Global Explorer can think of. One of the executives in the United States however is trying his utmost to keep the project from getting started and things in Africa aren't going that well either. John reports that the mother leopard has died after a lion attack, leaving behind her two young cubs. Written by Arnoud Tiele (

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

africa | cheetah | conservation | See All (3) »




PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 March 1995 (South Africa)  »

Also Known As:

Born Wild  »

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User Reviews

"Running Wild" is rather tame
26 January 2013 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This film's strong point is its wildlife photography. With actual footage of the true events it's loosely based on, it has a very authentic feel. However, the story itself and its themes left me somewhat unsatisfied.

Not as entertaining as, say, "Free Willy" and not as powerful as "Gorillas in the Mist", this movie missed some great opportunities to be more than it is. Only in the last 5 minutes do we get a glimpse of Varty's philosophical thoughts on conservationism. I really enjoyed that part, and if Varty is to do another film I would hope he includes a lot more of it. But most of the movie consists of nice leopard footage without much deeper commentary.

The story itself doesn't really focus on the global problems of conservation but instead focuses on the specific efforts to save 2 cubs, and without much drama in that respect, that's why the film loses strength. There are 2 villains in the movie: 1) a sleazy corporate suit who is trying to destroy the film project; and 2) a corrupt game warden who's trying to spoil Varty's plans to rehabilitate the cubs. Neither of these antagonists really relates to the global problem, thereby making the story a bit mundane. Like I said, only at the end does Varty offer some deep thoughts.

Another missed opportunity is that the movie fails to address the theme of interfering with nature (here in a productive way) which the DVD description led me to expect. A wildlife documentarian is supposed to be truly objective, not interfering in any of the scenes no matter how disturbing they may be. Varty crosses the line, which I found very interesting. But the film doesn't really address that. Crikey, that theme could've been powerful enough to carry the whole film.

So in the end we get a lot of pretty footage but not much else. Oh one more warning: leopards are predators of course, so while they look extremely fuzzy & cute, they do kill their food. I don't recall much footage of actual kills, mostly just bloody wildebeest carcasses afterwards, but either way it kinda kills the "awww" feeling.

I'm glad this film is out there because there aren't many conservation films in the world, and even worse, many of them make conservationists look like maladjusted freakshows (like Herzog's "Grizzly Man"). But I would sooner recommend "Gorillas in the Mist" or, for kids, "Sandy the Seal". Another film that comes to mind is the Vietnamese movie "Buffalo Boy" which is more about human nature than animals, but the story is about a guy who leads a pair of caribous for days in search of food & water. Great photography there.

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