[Kate Snowdon | Contributing Writer]
Every so often, a documentary comes along that moves you – that leaves you not only in possession of newfound knowledge, but with a fire in your belly to act upon what you’ve learned.
A group of UH students have managed to achieve just that reaction with their harrowing 13-minute insight into the plight of captive elephants kept in solitary conditions.
Gaining internet popularity under the hash tag: #Elefilm, The Elephant in the Room provides a deeply moving look at this issue through working in conjunction with wildlife charity; the Born Free Foundation – and in scenes reminiscent of critically acclaimed documentary Blackfish, they explore the damaging industry of zoos in the context of what we now know about elephant psychology and behaviour.
Since its completion, The Elephant in the Room has won the ITV award at the University of Hertfordshire’s Vision’s Festival and has also received over 12,000 views on Youtube and 5,000 views on Vimeo.
Narrated by BAFTA-winning actress and Born Free Foundation Founder Virginia McKenna OBE, The Elephant in the Room saw a group of nature-loving film makers (Producer & Assistant Editor Amanda Gardner; Writer, Director & Editor Tariq Chow, Matthew Buckner: responsible for Sound, Music & Animation and Emma Peirson-Hagger: responsible for Camera & Lighting) travel to California, Romania and Norway to complete filming, drawing upon the knowledge and experiences of experts working within several world-renowned charities.
Producer & Assistant Editor Amanda Gardner explained that the team, who together have already completed a film called ‘Catastrophe’ – which discussed the problems cat shelters are currently facing in the UK – were inspired to make The Elephant in the Room after reading a Born Free Foundation report entitled, ‘Innocent Prisoner’, which talked about the more than 40 elephants living on their own in captivity across Europe.
“ We decided that we would make this the main topic of our film, as we felt that it was an issue that not many people were currently aware of,” she explained.
“One of the main challenges in making the film was trying to choose the most poignant footage to use in order to convey the correct message to the audience, but we were extremely fortunate to get the Born Free Foundation on board – we could not have made The Elephant in the Room without their advice and support.”
I caught up with the team to find out more:
What work was involved in making the film? The main processes involved in making The Elephant in the Room were locating and interviewing specialists and experts in the animal welfare field and travelling abroad to four different locations to capture footage – UK, Romania, Norway and California USA. We also spent a lot of time and detail on writing the narration, editing the clips together and creating the soundtrack and animation. One of the main aims of the film was trying to convey the correct message to the audience in regards to how we can help these elephants living in solitary confinement.
What were the highlights for you? One of the main highlights of filming The Elephant in the Room was travelling to America to visit the ARK 2000 Sanctuary, where elephants have been re-homed from zoos and circuses to live out the rest of their lives in peace.
What kind of successes has the film had since completion? We held a private screening of our film at the Warner Bros. De Lane Lea sound studios, attended by representatives from the film industry, the national press and the animal welfare industry. Virginia McKenna OBE was also in attendance, alongside her son and President of the Born Free Foundation, Will Travers.
How did you manage to get Born Free Foundation on board? We managed to get the Born Free Foundation on board through a series of processes, including sending over a proposal which discussed the main outline of the film and also talking through our ideas and reasons for creating the documentary.
What are your hopes and aims for it here on in? We hope the message will spread further in regards to the problems of elephants living in solitary confinement. In would be fantastic for my team and I to develop the film into a feature length documentary.
My other hope is that all elephants living in zoos, particularly those living in solitary confinement, can move to a sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace, and that no more elephants are taken from the wild in order to live in a zoo or circus.
To watch the film and for more information, please visit; www.elefilm.eu The Elephant in the Room is in association with Born Free Films and is narrated by Virginia McKenna OBE. Crew – Amanda Gardner (Producer & Assistant Editor), Tariq Chow (Writer, Director & Editor), Matthew Buckner (Sound, Music & Animation) and Emma Peirson-Hagger (Camera & Lighting).