Review: ‘Living with Leopards’ – A Heartfelt and Intimate Nature Documentary

By Daniel Hart
Published: May 13, 2024
Living With Leopards Image on Netflix
Living with Leopards (Credit - Netflix)


This personal, beautiful documentary feature about infant cubs intimately combines the crew with wildlife.

The first thing I noticed when watching Living With Leopards was how little was siloed between the cubs and the production team. From the moment the documentary opens, there’s a real sense of personal commitment to telling a story. 

That story is about two infant cubs founded by directors Alex Parkinson and Brad Bestelink and their team in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Encountering these leopards goes beyond the lifestyle of filmmaking; it’s more of an emotional entanglement. The directors and their crew committed to watching these cubs transition to adulthood. 

While this is a beautifully shot nature documentary, it’s also a feature-length story. From sweeping visuals to patient shots, Living With Leopards acknowledges the hard work to achieve this case study. While I sit in my armchair at home, taking in all this marvelous work, I never usually get the sense of the sacrifices made to follow animals in nature. 

Well, by the documentary’s end, I certainly felt lazy. Seeing the documentary crew spend hours waiting for events and keeping the cubs tracked looked exhausting. When one of the crew members highlighted that they had forgotten to eat due to their mission, I felt a sense of purpose over work. There’s a meaning behind the lens. When you are doing something that’s a passion project, it does not feel like work at all. 

Living With Leopards is highly zeroed into a specific family, detailing their habitats and hunting techniques. Even being the predator does not guarantee a sure life for these cubs. But what really warms the heart is the documentary’s insight into the mother-cub bond and the playfulness that followed. The documentary felt intimate and glaringly public, witnessing the lives of an animal family play out in front of the lens. 

There may be some criticism of how zeroed in the documentary is. It’s highly specific to these cubs as they grow into the world and removes any instances outside their habitat. However, the title and premise is not a smokescreen at all. It is what it is meant to be. 

The documentary is not academic with its narration either: there was a choice made to make this into an entertaining documentary feature that marries the animals and the crew, and it was a good creative choice. It feels personal. 

This is no Chimp Empire, but it works as it is meant to. Living With Leopards is a cute addition to the nature space. 


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