As I often comment with documentaries of this nature, Rewilding could easily reach its initially engaging potential and end with a high note that would absolutely work considering the subject at hand. There would have been nothing wrong if director Jesse Spiegel had actually manipulated the editing of his own adventure to be a joyous trip that stayed away from the raw ramifications of his approach. However, his decision to go beyond the comfort zone feels important and somehow, essential.
Rewilding is a beautiful journey of redemption and self-forgiveness that reveals an admirable work of a few. But it’s also a film that highlights a conversation we need to have more often. It’s not that Spiegel’s goal is less important than the final point. It’s that the implication is an organic turn towards something far more realistic and common than we think: Why is race a factor when it comes to delivering, serving, and stamping justice on a person?
The documentary Rewilding is the portrait of Spiegel’s mission to put together a sort of program that connects formerly incarcerated young men with a world they’re not familiar with. His view is risky, considering society’s idiotic standards. Spiegel and his friends are audacious climbers that hold a connection with nature that seems extreme, and his goal is to use this experience as a challenge for young men who haven’t had the privilege of exploring what most consider an extreme sport.
The “casting” decides on Anthony Dejesus, a Black artist who’s been in Rikers. Dejesus says yes to an adventure he can’t possibly understand as his world has never included activities as “white” as this one. What comes after is an amazing relationship built on the elimination of prejudice, misconceptions and every stupid view we’ve ever had regarding race and tradition. Dejesus encounters himself and his potential future in Rewilding.
And then Rewilding goes for more. A comment regarding mental health that wasn’t strictly necessary but which holds an important presence when considering Dejesus and the opportunity he didn’t waste. Was he lucky to participate in something like this? Why? Don’t we all deserve to be forgiven and to be equal in the eyes of the law and a justice system that’s supposed to be fair?
Spiegel also encounters himself when his film has to include the raw side of the journey. In a compelling segment, we come to see different views in regards to things we find and aren’t ours. Two opposite men finding common ground on something as superficial as a cellphone, but an essential part of a film that deals with forgiveness and preconceptions with a very clever focus.
Rewilding is an extraordinary depiction of love in the most uncommon of places.