By Rollo Ross
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Harry Turner, a former British soldier who was deployed to Afghanistan at the age of 18, was struggling with PTSD and depression when he decided to try something completely new in the Peruvian Amazon (NASDAQ:).
Far from home and civilization, Turner found the joy of caring for an ocelot kitten that was later reintroduced into the wild by the conservation group Hoja Nueva, founded by his friend Samantha Zwicker.
Their triumphs and struggles are the focus of “Wildcat,” a documentary filmed deep in the rainforest that premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
The film begins on a tender note as Turner falls in love with the playful ocelot Khan, but then turns dark as Khan dies in an accident, leaving Turner distraught and Zwicker worried about him.
Then they get a call from a friend that an ocelot kitten has been found by lumberjacks and little Keanu is helping Turner out of his grief.
Turner said people have expressed their gratitude for his raw portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
“They are very grateful that I was able to be vulnerable on screen and show that side of depression that not many films make it seem really real,” Turner told Reuters. “I think the only way we managed to do that was by being completely honest.”
The documentary came about after Zwicker shot videos documenting Khan’s upbringing in hopes it would help other conservationists bring cats back into the wild.
Directors Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh came on board to document the lives of Turner, Zwicker and their pets after they conceived Keanu.
“I never thought it would be so personal,” said Zwicker. “I thought it would be a lot more about the cats and nature and weave in some of these bigger issues of the wildlife trade and illegal logging.”
It took Keanu 18 months to be raised by Turner alone before being released into the jungle, presenting the filmmakers with a unique situation.
“It was only Harry seeing Keanu because they wanted to make sure there were no other humans around him so he was as scared of humans as possible,” Frost said, adding, “That was something we really did.” accepted and I think it really lent itself to a stronger film.”
With proceeds from the reported $20 million Amazon Studios paid for the documentary, Zwicker is building her conservation program Hoja Nueva, while Turner has started his own charity, Emerald Arch.
He buys Amazon land in Ecuador, conducts scientific research and helps animals in need. And he will create a retreat geared towards military veterans with PTSD and depression.
“It only took me about two weeks to realize that my life had meaning,” Turner said.
“I know it can be a fresh start for other people who are struggling and I hope that by combining mental health and preservation it can be the case because at the end of the day we need this world to be sane.” to be.”