It was recently announced that of the 10 eggs harvested from Ol Peetja Conservancy in the African country of Kenya, 7 had been successfully inseminated by the sperm of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino who passed away mid-2018. What this news means is the species may no longer face extinction, and Sudan’s legacy – that of cultural icon and front for conservation efforts all over the globe – will be passed down for years to come. Floor van der Meulen’s new documentary THE LAST MALE ON EARTH, details the final year and a half of Sudan’s life, including the men and women who dedicated themselves completely to him, before his devastating death.
THE LAST MALE ON EARTH is a short, sweet but wholly important documentary. Given recent events in the world, it seems more important than ever to shine a light on the devastation the human race is causing, but also show the everyday heroes who strive to save it. Meulen’s documentary follows a whole host of characters, introduced in rapid succession like some rag-tag action team. As well as caretakers, scientists, tour guides, politicians and police tasked with looking after Sudan, the film shows us the average people who pay extra on their tours to get the chance to take pictures with the dying creature. The irony of the situation is comical, though Meulen doesn’t attack her subjects. It is quite the opposite, in fact. Whilst she challenges her subjects, she’s never overly prying – a downfall in her journalistic approach to the film.
Hidden between each interview and shot of Sudan lies a dramatic flair, more fitting perhaps for a tragicomic Coen Brothers film, yet effective all the same. The sharp, dry humour may be missed on some as the subject is not very funny – nor does it generate any natural humour. Nevertheless, with some keen editing and clever use of music, some segments work as stand-alone short films showing the other side of wildlife conservation. Still, the film remains a reminder of the reality that the human race currently inhabits. Sudan stood as a beacon of hope, one last reminder of the beauty of nature that had fallen into the trap of man. With each day that ticks away on the clock featured in the film, we as an audience feel one step closer to the utter destruction of the flora and fauna of Planet Earth. Like his caretaker says, after completing a tour: “You’ll have to preach his gospel”.