Kicking off my reviews for this 2014’s edition of AFI DOCS (in the ‘Odds and Ends’ shorts program) is a great new film from Dutch filmmaker Willem Baptist. He has churned out numerous shorts over the last half-dozen years, some of which have had a smattering of awards at film festivals here and there. His 2010 film, “I’m Never Afraid [Ik Ben echt Niet Bang!],” about a very motivated 8-year-old boy, garnered three such honors. Now comes the whimsical “Wild Boar,” known in The Netherlands as “Wild Zwijn,” which was nominated for a Golden Calf at last year’s Nederlands Film Festival for best documentary short.
Darkly humorous, this documentary is all about the curious mixology of obsessive compulsive personalities and road kill. No doubt there are American counterparts, be it deer here in the Mid-Atlantic or perhaps the armadillo in the Southwest. In The Netherlands, its wild boar. The radio newscasts over there comment on the collisions caused by the beasts as they drift into civilization. Hey, if you’re hungry, you go where you think there’s food.
“Wild Boar” isn’t as much about these creatures as it is about the several curiously motivated individuals who are attracted to them. Several subjects who have their own ideas about how to handle the boar situation make up this film: a woman craving the danger of a stakeout (and who is an expert marksman), a bespectacled man who lives for removing the roadway carcasses that will eventually become the trophy boar skulls and tusks adorning his walls, a butcher who dabbles in boar art when not scouring the countryside in camouflage gear in search of prey to shoot (with his camera). There are some other brief diversions: how some children view the critters, or how some they are prepared for consumption—the neck apparently is very tender. One man, who has created a faux boar cemetery, pounds small wooden markers into the ground and, with a megaphone, offers up eulogies to remember those unmercifully lost to the wheels of progress.
Baptist’s imaginative and very determined use of the camera (by cinematographer Dirk-Jan Kerkkamp), lovely yet simple editing (by Albert Markus, who also designed the sound effects), some unusual music samplings, and the lilting, ruminating voice-overs from the characters themselves, gives the production a lovely quaintness. Be warned, there is some dissection—bloody at times—that may make you queasy. It’s still a marvelous, small gem.