BFI LFF 2023: Wilding (2023)

Wilding, based on Isabella Tree’s 2018 book, directed by David Allen, is a lyrical hymn to the self-healing of the English countryside.

Nature Knows Best

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Who hasn’t inherited a castle, a title and 3,500 acres of grounds and had to work out what to do with it all? Anyway, this very privileged, personable couple achieved worthy, topical aims: and that should not detract from their achievement. The arable land they inherited was exhausted and the soil had degraded to dust. Taking advice, they reintroduced herds of traditional animals to run free, stopped ploughing the farmland and upsetting the roots of the oaks, despite objections from neighbouring farmers. Gradually, wildlife — big and small – returned to this natural sanctuary, even after centuries of extinction or absence.

Wilding, this fascinating documentary, narrated by Isabella Tree herself, traces the story of rewilding the ecosystem at the estate at Knepp in Sussex, in the south of England. There’s beautiful David Attenborough-type photography of the countryside reasserting itself and of the animals that returned to it. It was a kind of miracle. Knepp was unique. And now it’s a successful business.

Wilding premiered in the UK at the BFI London Film Festival and screened on 6, 7 and 11 October 2023.

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