Picks and Pans Review: Wildflower

updated 06/15/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mark Seal |

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Acclaimed for the African wildlife films they made together in the '60s and '70s, Alan and Joan Root were a seamless fit—he, the gregarious one, was the creative force behind the lens; shy Joan handled all the details. But off- camera, as Seal's richly detailed portrait shows, things were far messier. In 1982 Joan became part of a "tortured love triangle" involving Alan and a nurse named Jennie Hammond; Jennie's possessiveness killed the Roots' working relationship. ("Cannot be at the Serengeti at the same time as Alan," Joan wrote a friend. "As if," author Seal notes, "their shared presence on a 5,700-square-mile plain would cause Jennie to explode.") After their 1990 divorce, Joan became a fierce conservationist whose alienation of local poachers may have caused her death: In 2006, at age 69, she was shot dead in her home in Kenya. Thanks to Seal's meticulous re-creation, her extraordinary life lives on.

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