The Velvet Queen, A New French Family-Friendly Documentary

A bird standing on a rocky hill

When Sylvain Tesson and Vincent Munier, two French journalists, set off into “the hidden part of the world” in hopes of finding a creature that humans do not deserve to see, they had no idea that it would be the most rewarding journey of their lives.


Director Marie Amiguet follows Tesson, a geographer and journalist, and Munier, an award winning wildlife photographer whose images capture brilliant landscapes and all sorts of weird and exotic foxes, birds, and other interesting animals. They end up deep in the Tibetan mountains searching for the majestic snow leopard. Along the way, they witness amazing interactions between animals and the habitats that they live in. Climate change and innovation are thoroughly discussed throughout the film as they talk about the differences between city life and the hidden places in nature. As Vincent so intelligently puts it, we are “nature’s numbskulls” and we are destroying all the wonderful things that used to be there.  While all of these sad truths are being expressed, the film itself is a beautiful work of art that has amazing images and footage of animals in their wild state. This film gives you what the best nature documentaries make you feel: In awe.

The movie starts in a little cabin in middle-of-nowhere Tibet, where the two new friends plan out their travels for the next few days, searching for the famous snow leopard, which both of them dream of seeing in the wild. The two adventurers travel through the Tibetan plateau and camp out in caves and on mountains, so they do not miss any opportunities that may arise. The land itself is very barren and desolate, but they are lucky that climate change hasn’t yet irreparably damaged the animals that live there or the habitats where they live. They do discuss how many places aren’t as lucky.

Vincent is a fearless photographer who will stay near danger in order to capture its essence. Sylvain, on the other hand, gets a little more nervous which is understandable since they encounter some potential threats. For instance, when they see a family of bears they are both stunned by this fortunate occurrence. But then Vincent says how there are two cubs and a mama, which could become deadly if the mama feels threatened. The bears see them and Sylvain gets nervous; he’s urging them to go, but the family of bears ignores them and goes on with their business. One of the amazing things about their encounters is that the animals seem to not care that they are being watched. It shows how peaceful things are without humans. Sylvain describes the meditation of watching one spot for hours and seeing animals hunt and play; he also mentions that the animals are so good at camouflaging themselves that sometimes he feels like he is the one being watched.

Vincent is a very experienced photographer and knows tons of little tricks to locate where the animals are and to get footage of them. As they are walking, they see a herd of Bharal, or Himalayan blue sheep, running down a mountain and a flock of crows circling above. Sylvain is amazed that Vincent knows the exact direction and location of whatever animal is there. Vincent explains how the Bharal are running away from a predator, and the crows are looking for the predator’s prey. That’s when they find the family of bears.

He also sets up cameras blending in with the rocks to capture the activity of animals wandering by when he isn’t there to see them in person. This is how they get their first glimpse of a snow leopard: It passes directly through the hidden camera’s view, then continues to roll around and pose for the camera. It is an incredible moment that really pushes them to keep searching for an in person encounter with one.

Vincent, Sylvain, and Marie’s journey shows how all of these animals, that have done nothing to us, will be gone if we don’t stop messing up their habitats and killing them for our own purposes. This unforgettable documentary is great for people who love nature, like slower films, and enjoy those brief images that make you say, “Wow.” It brings up lots of interesting questions to discuss, and is family friendly. The film makes it clear that we need to save the environment before it’s too late.

Aidan Bosmajian is thirteen and an eighth grader who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and loves snow leopards. That’s why he wanted to write his first ever movie review about The Velvet Queen.
A close up of a sign


Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Read more

Frenchly newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Frenchly Newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly stuff.