Gabriel Ponniah, Editor In Chief
ATX Screen Scene
Conservation, like any cause worth advocating for, concerns what we pass onto the next generation. The ultimate goal of fighting climate change amounts to leaving a better world for our children, and for the children of our animal friends. We all share this blue planet we call home, and for the sake of our collective continued lineage, we must protect it. The Legacy makes this point by focusing on a specific cause: a father inspiring passion in his son with the help of Mexico’s whale sharks.
Brimming with pathos, The Legacy devotes most of its energy towards this generational effort. Filmmaker Gerardo del Villar is obviously experienced with whale sharks, having worked closely with the animals on previous projects, and shares a cherished bond with the creatures—one which he hopes to impart onto his son.
In seeking out a way to swim closely with these massive animals without contributing to the destruction of their ecosystem or risking their harm, del Villar finds a guide and dons SCUBA gear along with his son for this inspiring experience. And the shark, to its credit, inspires awe and wonder at the same time inspiring respect for the danger large animals pose to humans, and the boundaries we must heed in pursuing the beauty of nature.
For all its hopefulness, The Legacy is far from perfect as a documentary. Firstly, it lacks a solid narrative throughline to justify its length, and its execution in the interview segments makes the messaging cumbersome. But even if the structure was sleek and fluid, and even if the film’s impressive visual coverage was matched by more substantive content, the high-minded idealism of The Legacy ought to be scrutinized.
Del Villar, early on, waxes poetic on the value of life experiences over material wealth, an admirable hierarchy. The world, however, isn’t quite so simple, and more often than not, lack of material wealth poses a major barrier to accessing those life experiences. It would appear that del Villar and company aren’t too encumbered by this lack, given the abundance of equipment, cinematic and aquatic, the production demonstrably utilizes.
What’s more troublesome is the fact that the film’s featured moment, in truth its most dramatically compelling shot, demonstrates an ignorance worrisomely reminiscent of the aforementioned experience-over-material statement. Del Villar exposes his son, a minor, to a potentially-life-threatening hazard on a documentary shoot, and had this been produced with corporate oversight, I shudder to think of the paperwork this stunt would’ve incurred, and more to think of how narrowly this innocent 20 minute short avoided tragedy.
The Legacy is born of good intentions, but in his passion for nature and his love for his son, the filmmaker has missed certain considerations which prove detrimental to the integrity of his work. Perhaps such worries are negligible when dealing with family, or perhaps they’re subservient to the thrilling moments which are sure to stick with the participants as long as they live. Nevertheless, great risk and great reward constitute the value of these life experiences, and one cannot be ignored on behalf of the other.