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Coincidence in Paradise (1999)

Ein Zufall im Paradies (original title)
Why do human beings exist? The film portrays people who have dedicated their lives to exploring this mystery: paleoanthropologists, anthropologists and other prehistoric researchers.


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Credited cast:
Christophe Boesch Christophe Boesch ... Self
John Gurche John Gurche ... Self
Kamoya Kimeu Kamoya Kimeu ... Self
Meave Leakey Meave Leakey ... Self
Elisabeth Vrba Elisabeth Vrba ... Self
Tim White Tim White ... Self


Why do human beings exist? The film portrays people who have dedicated their lives to exploring this mystery: paleoanthropologists, anthropologists and other prehistoric researchers.

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Studies in Evolution 101
13 September 2000 | by Shiva-11See all my reviews

"Man is the dominant creature to appear on the earth" Charles Darwin

Evolution happens. Period. This statement is not meant to spark debate, but to state a fact - it is impossible to ignore the vast body of fossil evidence. While we have been able to track the evolutionary track of many different species, trying to pin down the when and how is a little trickier. Nowhere is this more evident that with human evolution, specifically the one point where apes and men split and followed divergent paths. Matthias von Gunten, however, is more interested in the "why" - is there a universal law for evolution that determined our eventual outcome, or are we the products of pure entropy?

Gunten embarks on a tour of Africa - the acknowledged cradle of humanity - and introduces the viewer to a diverse group of people who have spent their life trying to divine an answer to his question. We meet Kamoya Kimeu, the Tiger Woods of fossil collecting set, as he walks amidst a sea of indistinguishable stones picking out minute bone fragments hoping that the next one will be the elusive Hominid - the Holy Grail of Paleontology. Elisabeth Vrba, an enraptured, animated paleontologist elicits smiles as she explains the role of habitat and its effect on evolution (quick explanation - apes' and men's ancestors were literally split apart because of some cataclsym - earthquake, massive flooding, etc. - and were forced to adapt to new climates, terrain, etc). Christophe Boesch, a behaviorist, relates some of the amazing traits of the wild chimpanzee troupe that he has lived amongst for the past five years - the use of advanced tools, communication, and working for the collective good - while he tries to reverse engineer our common abilities. But fear not, it's not all science.

The film balances the subject matter by documenting the beauty of the African continent: from the lush, near impenetrable Tai jungle of the Ivory coast, to the verdant diversity of the veldt in Botswana, to the foreboding, netherworld of the Rift Valley landscape, we are shown a land of contrasts. There is also some "fun" shots: impalas springing carefree about the plains, and baby chimpanzee cavorting in the undergrowth, sticking out their tongues and playing hide and seek. Be warned however, this isn't a Disney film.

In the most memorable scene in the film, the chimpanzees take to the treetops in a screaming frenzy in pursuit of a small gibbon, whose terrified shrieks pierce the air. The camera tries to follow the flitting images as they race through the canopy until one chimpanzee catches the gibbon pulls it to the ground where it is clubbed, stomped, butchered and divided amongst the troupe. As the camera pans away from a chimpanzee chewing on the bloodied arm of the small monkey Boesch notes that they regularly hunt in groups, a reason many anthropologists argue that humans first developed social groups. It definitely drives the point home…

If the subject matter interests you, you will definitely appreciate and enjoy this film. Creationists should probably catch another feature.

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France | Austria | Switzerland


English | German

Release Date:

25 April 2003 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Coincidence in Paradise See more »

Filming Locations:

Botswana See more »

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