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BMZ Review: Mysteries of the Great Lakes
By Ann Coates


Mysteries of the Great Lakes
Written by: Ann Coates
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: March 23, 2009


Category: Reviews

A story mainly focused on the lake sturgeon, Mysteries of the Great Lakes provides an expansive view of the North American lake system and the wildlife inhabiting its vast area.  Produced by Science North, the film offers a fascinating study on the largest freshwater fish in the world and the other animal inhabitants of the ecosystem.  However, the film stumbles in its attempt to catalog as much detail as possible on the lake system in its 40-minute runtime.

Directed by David Lickley, the film begins in the typical giant screen fashion of sweeping lake vistas, which make no mistake, is quite phenomenal in size and scope.  Nevertheless, the real meat of the film is found in the compelling and poignant tale of the local lake sturgeon.  Fished and hunted to almost extinction in the 19th century, the fish is now making a slow and laborious comeback thanks to the efforts of biologists such as Ron Bruch.  Bruch, a biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is heading a project to re-introduce the sturgeon into the lake ecosystem.  The film spends much of its time with Bruch and his love for the sturgeon, and rightly so, as the resilient fish not only has to overcome the massive drop in its population, but the ongoing pollution of the lake system.

The sturgeon has a lot of story to tell, but unfortunately, the film moves away from them for a spell to study other aspects of the great lakes.  The film touches upon the cargo ships that currently move through the lakes, and also those that perished in them.  From the ship industry, the film gives an account of the hydro electric plants that offer a green solution for increased energy consumption.  Despite the important environmental message, the film only picks up when it turns it attention to the lake wildlife once again.

The bald eagle, like the lake sturgeon, has suffered population loss mainly due to the effects of the DDT pesticide in the 1950s.  Since the pesticide's ban, the eagle has an opportunity for recovery as well, though a slow one.  The film gives an intimate glimpse into two eagle families, one set of chicks thrive as another deteriorates.  Why?  The lampreys which are caught by one eagle mother and fed to her chicks are, unbeknownst to her, polluted with mercury and other poisons.  Contrasted with the eagles' plight are the woodland caribou who are shown as thriving and prospering simply because their island refuge has no human interference.

Despite these two examples, the story of the lake sturgeon is more complex.  Humanity, once the sturgeons' destroyers, are now responsible for their recovery.  There is subtle string of interconnectivity that runs throughout the film, and a strong call to humanity's responsibility to these lake systems.  Bookended with beautifully grand aerial images of the lakes, the film provides a persuasive message of conservation through the effective story of the lake sturgeon.  Though extraneous storylines muddle the heart of the film, there is enough education and entertainment for those looking for either.

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