Deep in the African Bush, Kim Wolhuter is a man at one with an untamed world. A maverick filmmaker, raised in the wild, he pushes his life and his films to the edge. Using astonishing bush skills and an unprecedented knowledge of animal behaviour Kim Wolhuter just doesn’t sit in a truck to film some of Africa’s biggest predators – he wins their trust and runs alongside them. Barefoot.
Born from a long line of African Rangers and Bush Men, his Grandfather Harry Wolhuter famously killed a lion that attacked him, with just a pocket knife. Kim carries a replica of that knife, but the parallels end there.
‘I feel like I’m carrying on the Wolhuter tradition but I’m doing it in a different way. I’m not shooting with a gun anymore – I’m doing it with a camera’.
By winning the trust of the animals he films, he’s able to film the minutiae of their lives in extreme close up. He’s right at the kill, with the breath of the predator steaming up the lens – and Kim breathing just as hard alongside. To keep up with his subjects, he runs daily in the heat of the sun – training his body to be as tough, strong and able to withstand the same lack of water and food as the animals he follows. He runs barefoot so as not to ‘crash and crunch’ through the bush and ‘really understand what these soft footed predators are up against’. His only luxuries are a battered, unreliable but beloved jeep to get round the 200 square mile reserve and a tracking chip to help find the animals he’s working with.
In this 2 hour special Kim rediscovers a female cheetah he befriended but who he has not seen for 6 months. Alerted by reserve guards, he heads to where she was last spotted and discovers not just her, but five tiny cubs. It gives Kim the opportunity to follow their lives – if the mother still trusts him and he can build a bond with the youngsters. It’ll be a dangerous and risky challenge however – only 20% of cheetah cubs make it to six months and they’re the favourite prey of lions and leopards. With tested skills, he wins their trust and for the next 18 months lives alongside them, facing their challenges and chasing off lions, rhino and elephants in the process.
By the time the cubs reach 8 months old there are only two out of the five left. Lion, leopard and disease have taken their toll. But even with just two cheetahs to follow his fitness and camera work are pushed to the limit. He ups his training – and succeeds in filming their Hunting School – from the bungled attempts with their first young impala to their first full sized buck, all under their mother’s watchful eye.
But when the mother leaves them at 18 months, it coincides with the coming of the rains. As the floodwater rises Kim doesn’t see them for 10 days – until he mans his canoe and heads into the wilderness. Will they have starved without their mother – or will they have turned into fully fledged killers?