Rotterdam 2014 Review: THE CREATOR OF THE JUNGLE Stuns With Its Subject
Documentaries are an interesting sub-category within films, because their "watchability" can be entirely caused by coincidence, if the director is lucky enough. Jordi Morató didn't need either luck or coincidence though, as the subject of his film The Creator Of The Jungle is plenty interesting all by itself, and actually brought its own existing archive of footage with it already.
The subject here is a Spanish eccentric named Garrell, and the structures he has made in a small forest for the past 45 years. See, this Garrell started playing in the forest as a teenager, building tree houses and such, and basically never stopped. And in all those years he became really, REALLY good at what he does, to the point that his structures need to be seen to be believed. If he wants to build himself a lookout, a 30-meter-high tower is the result. When Garrell encounters a stream, he builds dams, ponds, waterfalls, showers. Even an experimental dig in rock results in a new cave system, baffling in both size and intricacy.
Jordi's documentary focuses on Garrell's demeanor and creations, not on his life. You don't get to see how he lives outside of the forest, or his family. It's just him, in the forest, and the things he made. But the forest Garrell uses as his playground is not owned by him, and this has led to problems. People are free to visit his creations, but as these have been built without any sort of permit, people are free to vandalize them as well.
On several occasions, Garrell destroyed everything he made and started over from scratch, for instance when a road was built through the forest. Thing is, whenever Garrell rebuilds, he rebuilds bigger and better, leading to new jawdropping results. Much of the documentary is about Garrell's first exploits, and therefore consists of historical footage, of which there is plenty. Several people shot self-made Tarzan films in Garrell's constructions, with Garrell himself happily posing as Tarzan, swinging death-defyingly through trees in a loincloth. It's grainy and scratchy, but the images already show how impressive Garrell's labyrinths and buildings are, boobytraps and all.
So when Jordi Morató arrives at the present, and shoots his own footage with modern cameras, you are again shocked at the size and beauty of Garrell's creations, now caught in razorsharp images. The story Jordi shows us, is of an artist who doubles as a noble savage, fighting against the establishment and losing. This approach never really takes off and suffers from pretentiousness, but that doesn't harm the documentary even a bit, for two reasons. First, because what is in front of the lens is impossible to take your eyes off, and second, because Garrell so obviously enjoys everything he does, including spectacularly demolishing his own creations. Even at 76 years old he is still at it, with added skill. And it is impossible not to crack a smile at the end of this documentary.
This was a World Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and audiences awarded the film a whopping high 4.5 out of 5, giving it a place in the top-10 of the festival!