Survival of the Prairie Fittest – NFB film ‘Wild Life’ (2011)

This animated NFB short by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis is a story about a young Englishman, known as a remittance man, who journeys to Alberta in 1909 in an attempt at a new life there as a rancher.  The young man proudly writes home to his family about his ‘good fortune’. We see him having fun playing sports and admiring the nature that surrounds him. Later, his letters reflect a more somber tone as the struggles of living on the Canadian Prairie begin to make an impact on him.

I enjoyed the humour in the beginning and the seriousness at the end.  The ‘interviews’ with the different people who knew the young man (I immediately recognized Luba Goy’s voice as the old lady) were funny, too.  Their personal opinions of this young man gave the audience a better understanding of what he was really like. His exaggerated letters to his parents brought a smile to my face, as he clearly stretched the truth regarding the situations in which he found himself (such as his pride in having secured a herd of cattle, when there really is only a colony of ants running around on the ground).

This film reminded me of the saying, “the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side”.  How many people have often moved from one city or province or country to another, only to find that the new location didn’t really live up to expectations?  The film also speaks to one’s ability or inability to survive in new and unforgiving situations. The animation by Tilby and Forbis was refreshing, and the characters’ voices were well-chosen.  Check out for more information about their work.

As an added bonus, have a look at this ‘making of’ video of Wild Life:





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