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Born to Be Wild at the Science Center IMAX Theater

Interview with Drew Fellman, documentary writer and producer

A scene from "Born to Be Wild."

A scene from "Born to Be Wild."

  • A scene from "Born to Be Wild."
  • A scene from "Born to Be Wild."
  • A scene from "Born to Be Wild."
  • A scene from "Born to Be Wild."
  • A scene from "Born to Be Wild."
  • A scene from "Born to Be Wild."
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By living abroad, or even just spending extended periods of time with people who have been raised in distant environments, with differing cultural norms, we develop a better understanding of each other -- and ourselves.

When these interactions go a step further, occurring between people and wild animals, the cultural exchange becomes truly captivating.

The newly released IMAX film “Born to Be Wild,” opening May 13 at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, takes audiences to two remote animal havens where this exchange takes place on a daily basis. The film intertwines the stories of an orangutan care center in the Indonesian part of Borneo and an elephant center in Kenya, where teams rescue, rehabilitate, and return vulnerable animals back to the wild.

In addition to offering viewers sweeping helicopter shots of the locations (in true IMAX style), Morgan Freeman narration, and giggle-inducing footage of orangutans romping around and wearing diapers, the 40-minute film raises philosophical questions about communication, love, and bonding.

During a preview screening of “Born to Be Wild” at the Fleet, the film’s writer/producer Drew Fellman discussed the film’s themes and his motivation for spending more than three years of his life immersed in the subject matter.

Drew first visited Borneo 17 years ago during a backpacking trip between college and graduate school. While journeying through a lush jungle with crocodiles and exotic birds, he arrived at a jetty where an adult female orangutan and a younger orangutan came walking up to him.

“The little one climbed up into my arms and it was this sort of strange experience. I was just waiting for someone to yell at me and say hey, you can’t touch the orangutans. You never think that you could have that kind of interaction with a great ape on your own terms.”

Ever since his experience in Borneo, he dreamed of bringing the story of orphaned orangutans to the world, pitching it to Hollywood execs and magazine editors whenever he had the chance. But it wasn’t until someone introduced him to the story of the elephants that it all made sense.

“It became more about our human relationship with really sophisticated animals and the natural world,” he said. “It took it to another level.”

In the film, the orphaned animals are initially terrified of the humans who want to help-- teams led by Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas (Borneo) and Dame Daphne Sheldrick (Kenya). Then the orphans develop trusting relationships with humans and other orphaned animals as they begin to regain the health, strength, and confidence they need to go back into the wild.

“You have these animals who have taken the brunt of the destruction that mankind has inflicted on the world, and then there are these people who are sort of undoing that, bit by bit, in a significant way.”

“Born to Be Wild” opens this Friday, May 13, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. The film is rated G.