‘Animals with Cameras’ leads March’s family-friendly spotlight

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Editor’s note: This monthly series, “5 Family-Friendly Things,” spotlights five family-friendly entertainment choices on film, DVDs, streaming or television.   

Nature documentaries always rank among my family’s favorite programs — whether it’s the BBC’s splendid Planet Earth and Frozen Planet series or PBS’ marvelous and time-tested Nature programs.

But those documentaries have their limits. The camera operators can’t, for example, go everywhere. They can’t swing through the trees with chimpanzees, dive down a burrow with meerkats, or ride the back of a cheetah as it hunts for food.  

Until now.

A new three-part miniseries, Animals with Cameras, follows small and big animals alike through their natural habitat as they carry lightweight cameras wherever they go. It was released in 2018 by the BBC and PBS, and is streaming now on Netflix.

Animals with Cameras leads this month’s list of “5 Family-Friendly Things.”

It’s a nature documentary unlike anything you’ve seen. In Episode 1, we go underground with meerkats and explore 300 feet of tunnels. We swing through the trees with a chimpanzee in a scene straight out a Hollywood film. And we dive under the water with penguins as they search for food for their young.

The series has its critics, but the host explains each time how the cameras are benefiting the animals and conservation efforts. The chimpanzee, for instance, had been orphaned, and its caretaker was needing to know if it could survive in the wild. The camera provided the answer.

Also worth watching this month:

‘Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy’ — In theaters for three nights only (March 14, 16 and 19), this gripping documentary follows filmmaker Timothy Mahoney as he explores a central question of Bible scholarship: Who wrote the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Pentateuch? Conservative scholars say it was Moses, while those on the Left say it was written hundreds of years later and cannot be trusted. The issue isn’t trivial, as it gets to the foundation of whether the Bible is God’s Word. Mahoney, if you’re curious, lands on the side of conservatives.      

Basketball documentaries — March is the month for “madness” in college basketball, and Amazon Prime and YouTube are home to a plethora of basketball documentaries and videos to whet your appetite. Amazon Prime is the best platform for NBA documentaries (keyword: “NBA”), while YouTube is the best source for college basketball clips. Try these YouTube keywords: “March Madness buzzer beaters” and “college basketball documentary.”

‘Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine’ — St. Patrick’s Day is March 17. Why not learn about the real Patrick — and other heroes of church history, too? One of my favorite church series is PBS’ Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine, now streaming for free on Amazon Prime. Historian Jonathan Phillips explores the many sites of Jesus’ miracles and then follows the steps of the first Christians. Another good one is A&E’s Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years, which is free on YouTube. Don’t let the PBS and A&E labels frighten you: Both documentaries presuppose that the Bible is true. The faith-based streaming service PureFlix.com has dozens of programs on this topic. Keywords: “church history” and “Christian history.”

‘American Gospel: Christ Alone’ — This documentary critiques the Prosperity Gospel and Word of Faith movements, asserting that their defenders — such as Benny Hinn — are promoting a message that is harming the church and is antithetical to Scripture. It can be rented or purchased on Amazon, YouTube and other streaming platforms.  

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