One of the pleasures of any serious film festival is that you’ll encounter films from all over the world. It becomes easier with time to note particularities about certain films from certain countries. France certainly isn’t some hidden treasure of cinematic charm, its contributions to the cinematic art are obviously as established as any country in the world. Still, there’s a particular style of French nature documentaries, popularized on this continent by the likes of March of the Penguins, that seems to be be common to all that play over here.

Unfortunately, this common theme is a sometimes comedic, sometimes offensive anthropomorphism that permeates the entire tale, as if simply showing the comings and goings of the natural environment is not enough without the added drama of passion, corruption, moral decay, etc. With March we has penguins who felt “inconsolable loss”, with editing making us feel that the birds were almost weeping with angst over the death of a young member. The point is not to debate about whether or not an animal can have feelings, but instead a dismissal of the apparent need to equate these creatures as having human characteristics in order to be interested in them.

This anthro-metaphor is all over the Besieged Citadelle – it’s a termite mound, after all, not an actual castle. The poetic license of these metaphors are stretched pretty thin when the entire film is nothing less than a showcase of the good (light coloured) termites versus the evil (black) invading ants. I’m not exaggerating here, this is an insect conflict with narration written by someone who’s read far too much Nietzche to be writing kid-oriented nature fluff, let alone feeding into the anti-imigrant policies that have plagued France for decades.

The macro photography is quite excellent, and the details we get into the inner workings of the colonies is quite extraordinary. However, the booming drums, the whip pans and rapid cuts to foster some sort of adrenaline-fueled extravaganza make it more than a little over the top.

Some fine nature footage is hampered by the desire to recreate Massada or Zulu in bug form, it’s indeed unfortunate that this tendency to make animals be like people continues to plague popular French nature docs. Here’s hoping they take a page out of the BBC’s book in the future, and tone down this irritating factor.