Original release: 2012
Running time: 52 minutes
Directors: Swati Thiyagarajan, diagnosis Craig Foster
Cast: Anna Breytenbach
Being in a world with over 7 billion other human beings, ed it should come as a surprise to us when we realise we’re not very good communicators, but it doesn’t. We might be able to talk to one another, but rarely do we actually understand another person’s emotions, feel what they’re experiencing or share their perspectives, opinions and beliefs that’ve been shaped during the course of their lives. When it comes to how we communicate with the animals we coexist on this planet with, the picture that presents itself is even more dismaying.
Aside from the commands we give to our pet dogs and cats, and the food we put out for them when they’re hungry, how can we say we’re any better at communicating with them than we are with each other? It may be that you believe it’s not at all possible for us humans to talk to animals in a way they could understand (or vice-versa), but where does this idea stem from, and how do we know it to be true?
The Animal Communicator is a documentary that was brought to my attention by a good friend of mine. Knowing I have a much greater level of empathy, compassion and understanding of them as intelligent and emotional beings than with people, my friend urged me to watch it because he thought it would confirm everything I feel instinctively when it comes to cross-species communication. He was absolutely right. The film introduces us to Anna Breytenbach, a South African-based professional animal communicator with a degree in Psychology, Economics and Marketing. Breytenbach trained through the Assisi International Animal Institute in California and has been practising for 12 years in South Africa, Europe and the USA with domestic and wild animals. What she does with these animals will be difficult to believe at first, but if you watch it with an open mind and an open heart, deep down you’ll know it to be true and it will change your approach to so many things.
The film starts with Breytenbach on a cliff top overlooking the ocean and showing us that this place, the southern tip of Africa, is special to her because it’s the origin our species. It’s where we first lived in harmony with animals. But that harmony has now disappeared. She then describes how humans have violated the living spaces of animals, how we no longer know how to behave around them, how we’ve been abusing them and banishing them from a world that’s as much theirs as it is ours. This all makes it sound like one of those adverts on television that try to get you to give money to various organisations by showing us sad faces of mistreated animals, but The Animal Communicator isn’t anything like that.
Its approach is far more natural. We immediately feel the space that’s grown between us and the animal kingdom and the emptiness that lies in between is something that can still be fixed. Breytenbach describes how she tries to bridge that space and how it’s become her life’s mission to help our specie reconnect with the rest of nature. The animals we encounter during the film are nothing less than amazing. We first see Breytenbach entering a compound of baboons, a group that’s known to be aggressive because of all the human interference in their lives, and walking easily among them, sitting with them and taking part in their activities and all the while she’s communicating with them through her body language and her mind that she is no threat. The animals accept her presence there.
We encounter a handful of stories like these and Breytenbach’s skills as an animal communicator are put to the test when she comes face to face with a dangerous panther that’s been rescued from a zoo. “Diablo” hasn’t taken to his new surroundings and has even attacked his keeper. Breytenbach is brought in and not given any information about his background, but she’s able to communicate with him using her mind and transmitting her thoughts and feelings to him, and he does the same. They’re immediately at ease with each other and the panther tells her he doesn’t like the name “Diablo”, he wants it changed and he’s not sure what’s expected of him in this new place. From this conversation, Breytenbach is able to show his keepers how best to communicate with the animals they take care of and they’re then able to make Spirit (as he’s been renamed) feel more comfortable and appreciated for the majestic creature he is.
The Animal Communicator brought tears to my eyes. There are sad moments, but there are also times when I cried because I was so happy. It’s such an amazing moment when you see animals and humans interacting with each other on a level that goes beyond conventional thinking. We’re capable of such horrors, but we’re also able to do such wonderful things. If we could retune our frequencies back to the planet and the life around us, rather than looking for technology to make our lives easier and for science to explain it all to us in a nutshell, we could again live in harmony with what someone like Breytenbach has to teach us.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .