Review: ‘The Serengeti Rules’ is a nature documentary with a hopeful message


Many nature documentaries seem to take one of two opposing approaches: They either blithely ignore the negative effects of human population growth and climate change on animals or they present the state of the natural world as so dire as to be irreparable. “The Serengeti Rules” sets itself apart by not only acknowledging the dangers afflicting ecosystems around the world but also presenting a hopeful solution to the problem.

Led by ecologist Bob Paine in the 1960s, a group of scientists travel to remote parts of the globe and discover that one natural law applies to each of their disparate locations: Paine in the Washington tide pools, Tony Sinclair in the Serengeti, Mary Power in Oklahoma’s freshwater streams, John Terborgh in the Amazon rain forest and Jim Estes in the Aleutian Islands.

These vastly different ecosystems all have one thing in common — if you remove a keystone species as varied as a starfish or a big cat, the entire community collapses. Their experiments and observation prove to be a massive leap forward in ecology.


Director Nicolas Brown combines lively reenactments, contemporary interviews, well-rendered graphics and stunning nature cinematography to tell the story of the five scientists and the effects of their discovery. “The Serengeti Rules” celebrates not only the diversity and beauty of the natural world but also recognizes the transformative power of curiosity and knowledge.


‘The Serengeti Rules’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica