In the prehistoric survival “Alpha”, a young boy befriends a wolf. A feature film that angered the PETA association when it was released in 2018.
Alpha : prehistoric friendship
In 2018, Albert Hugues directed his first solo film with Alpha, separated from his brother Allen with whom he signed Menace II Society, Sacrificed Generation, From Hell or The Book of Eli. And for this first experience where he finds himself alone at the helm, the filmmaker tries his hand at prehistoric survival.
As Morgan Freeman – narrator of any self-respecting epic adventure – explains in the introduction, Alpha takes place in Europe 20,000 years ago. Young Keda learns hunting alongside his father Tau, leader of his tribe. But as she attacks a herd of bison, one of the animals throws Keda off a cliff top.
Waking up alone and injured, the hero has no choice but to apply the precepts of his elders in order to stay alive in a hostile environment. Determined to find his family, he embarks on a long journey, especially braving an extremely harsh winter of the last ice age. Its long crossing takes on a whole new meaning ashe befriends a wolf, which he calls Alpha.
After the boy from The road, Kodi Smit-McPhee plays here another character launched into a dangerous initiatory story. Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (Game Of Thrones) interprets the tribal chief devastated by the loss of his son.
A risky project
In today’s Hollywood landscape, Alpha stands out as an astonishing and risky proposition. Shot in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, the film is an immersion in endless expanses, where the few faces that appear on screen are unfamiliar to viewers.
Alpha therefore does not benefit from the presence of a star and is based on an unknown language. Apart from the few lines of the narrator, Christine Schreyer creates the rare dialogues of the feature film. The teacher, who teaches anthropology at the University of British Columbia, takes two years to develop them.
During its operation in the United States in August 2018, Alpha is also found in front of Crazy Rich Asians and In troubled waters. Another parameter that may explain why it struggles to find its audience in the country. With a budget of $ 51 million according to Box Office Mojo, the film brought in nearly 36 in the USA, against more than 62 internationally. A score that seems low compared to the 530 million dollars in global receipts from the aquatic blockbuster carried by Jason Statham and the 238 million from comedy with Constance Wu and Henry Golding.
A call for a boycott launched by PETA
At the time of its release in the United States, PETA calls to boycott Alpha. The association for the defense of animals protests against certain filming conditions, taking up an article published by the Hollywood Reporter two years earlier, in June 2016. The site then claims that five bison were reportedly slaughtered and skinned for a scene of the project, then baptized The Solutrean. Prohibiting such use, the American Humane Association opens an investigation.
The production company Studio 8 immediately defends itself. She invites the association to go on the set and affirms:
(Studio 8) proactively engaged with a reputable meat processing company to purchase bison carcasses.
A spokesperson for Sony, co-producer, ensures in parallel that no animal was killed especially for the film. For his part, the breeder John Scott – who supplies the animals – claims that he is entitled to do what he wants with his bison. The American Humane Association blames him for the facts. She thus declares in a press release published in September 2016 :
American Humane hired an independent investigator. This third-party investigator determined that while the production went out of their way to ensure that no animals were harmed, the breeder, contrary to our policy, killed bison for the film. A flagrant violation of our guidelines that we cannot and will not tolerate.
Vulture then reports that there was a misunderstanding between John Scott and the production ofAlpha. American Humane does not grant any certification to the feature film claiming that no animals were harmed or killed for the purposes of the project. A decision, however, deemed insufficient by PETA. The organism castigates the use of real animals such as Chuck, Czechoslovakian wolfdog and movie star.