Have you ever seen lemurs dance? In this nature documentary, narrator Morgan Freeman transports you thousands of miles away -- to the island of Madagascar, where the Earth's oldest primates dwell.
More than 60 million years ago, the ancestors of these lemurs floated from East Africa on the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean to Madagascar on little rafts of vegetation. In that strange, isolated environment with no predators, they flourished, developing into a variety of species, some as large as a gorilla. Now, because of the growth of civilization, more than 90 percent of their forests have been destroyed. All the giant lemurs are extinct -- and the types that are left are in danger.
Filmmakers David Douglas and Drew Fellman ("Born to Be Wild") spent three months exploring the elusive lemurs' exotic habitats and working with American primatologist Patricia C. Wright, professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University, who describes their female-centric power structure.
Known as the "Eighth Continent," massive Madagascar is about the size of Texas -- with a varied topography. Established in 1991, Ranomafana National Park provides 112,000 acres of protected rainforest and has become indigenous home to many species -- from the Greater Bamboo lemurs to the Ring-tailed lemurs and the Mouse Lemurs which, as the smallest primates in the world, have the same genetic foundation as humans. While the large Indri lemurs are the shrill choral masters, it's the dancing Sifakas that steal your heart. They're playful, arboreal acrobats, leaping great distances between trees covered in needle-sharp spines.
To their credit, the filmmakers never anthropomorphize these adorably furry creatures. Instead, they allow the lemurs' expressive faces and frisky antics, captured by the astounding imagery of the 3-D IMAX format, weave a compelling web. If only it was a rousing call to some kind of action.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar" is an enchanting, educational 7, delivering its ecological message about conservation in a most delightful way. See it daily at the IMAX Theater at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.