'Heroes' Vividly Explores the Rain Forest Canopy



Rain Forest: Heroes of the High Frontier. National Geographic Video. 60 minutes. $19.98. (800) 627-5162.

Hollywood has nothing on these real-life heroes--biologists and ecologists--and the astounding new territory they are risking life and limb to explore: "the green roof of the world," the vast rain forest canopy.

This is a fabulous family film. Gardens, fed by mist and dust, grow in tree-top moss mats; water-filled, cupped blossoms serve as nurseries to polliwogs a hundred feet above the ground. There are fruit-seeking woolly opossums, orangutans, bats and gibbons, jewel-colored snakes traveling airborne from tree to tree, lizards with ribs that double as wings, and tiny mice that take to the air like furry parachutes.

The complex ecosystem teems with animal and plant life rarely seen by humankind, and scientists are racing against time to realize the scope of that life before it is lost to agriculture and logging. The intrepid men and women have passion, brains and brawn, climbing up from the forest floor to observe and sample, and gently descending on the canopy from floating, fantasy-colored dirigibles.

Cinematographers Neil Rettig, Justine Evans and Steve Downer did the extraordinary filming; it was produced and directed by Tim Scoones. The compelling narrative, performed by actor F. Murray Abraham, was written by Cathy McConnell.

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