With Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ piquing public interest in the affairs of big cats in the United States, out comes the documentary ‘Minnesota Tiger Man’ about another shocking and tragic incident related to these cats in America. Grant Osum’s hour long documentary charts the shockingly true story of Grant Oly, a big cat collector who saw his tiger habitat shut down and life savings evaporate in the face of several accidents involving the cats, prompting the federal authorities to get involved.
‘Minnesota Tiger Man’ not only accurately depicts and recounts the true story but is also really well made. With interviews from the people involved in the ordeal, the documentary expertly mixes archival footage with interviews to provide a complete picture of the story. There’s no sensationalism or glossing, it’s all just cold hard facts related to a story that very few people believe actually took place right here in the US. Osum’s greatest strength is his brevity. While ‘Tiger King’ needlessly drew out the story in order to attain maximum viewing minutes on the streamer, Osum keeps it brief. This, in turn, keeps the audience glued to the screen. The pacing is fantastic and so is the editing. Every monologue, every frame and every second has a purpose here, to recount a great story that was almost lost to time. It’s hard not to identify with the protagonist here; after all, he was the one who lost everything. However, rather than being a one sided story, the film makes the effort to showcase all points of view concurrently.
Big Cats have always been a contentious issue in the US with their numbers in the wild dwindling to the point of extinction. The situation is made more complicated by the fact that there are more tigers in captivity in the US than there are in the wild across the world. With conservationists gunning for closing all such big cat exhibits in the US, the documentary also illustrates how the debate of big cat owners vs the conservationists is playing out in the US. With wildlife laws becoming more strict each day, ‘Minnesota Tiger Man’ takes out the time to contextualize this issue in the context of the story as well and does so without fluff or bait.