The United Kingdom has been home to eye-witness reports of alien big cats (ABCs) — large, wild felines not native to the region — since the 1700s. The United States is no stranger to such sightings, as shown in renowned author Linda S. Godfrey’s debut as a film director, Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus, which won the Best Documentary award at MidWest WeirdFest.
The documentary examines the accounts of people seeing large black cats — often referred to as black pumas, black cougars, or black panthers — in an area in west central Wisconsin that features plenty of room for such animals to roam among rocky crags and beautiful valleys. No variety of mountain lion has been known to exist there for about 100 years, however, and science and wildlife experts are quick to write off such sightings. Some of Godfrey’s interview subjects have a theory as to why officials are quick to dismiss such claims, but I will leave that for future viewers to find out when they watch this film.
Godfrey, as a well-respected author about, and investigator of, strange creatures — her books include Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America; American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America; and the upcoming I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore — has listened to, read, and collected eyewitness accounts of strange occurrences for many years. In Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus, she allows her subjects to tell their own stories and give their own theories, treating each interviewee respectfully and without judgement. The documentary focuses on several residents of the Hillsboro, WI area who give first-hand accounts of their sightings, as well as other locals including Steven J. Stanek, a former area journalist who has written several articles about the possibility of large black wildcats in the area; Paul Arentz, news editor of the Hillsboro Sentry Enterprise, who gives an engaging, intriguing Native American view of the subject; and local historian Kevin Alderson. The film features impressive animated recreations of the black cats that people saw from digital illustrator and animator Nathan D. Godfrey, who also turns in solid work as director of photography, co-director, and sound designer.
Fans of cryptozoology, undiscovered animals, and unsolved mysteries should find plenty to enjoy and chew on with the 48-minute documentary Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus. Linda S. Godfrey has crafted an impressive debut film, and it is exciting to see her branch out from her already successful career as an author. I’m looking forward to future projects from her and her White Lhasa Studios team.
Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus screened at MidWest WeirdFest, which took place March 6–8 at Micon Cinemas Downtown in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The film is available for streaming from March 13 and is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray soon. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/WhiteLhasa/.
(4 / 5)