Endangered landscape threatens the lives of some of Kenya’s last great tusk elephants. The film production “A-team” have come together to try and help. Brittney Deguara writes.
One Wednesday afternoon, in an editing room at Wellington’s Park Road Post, the sound of elephants stomping, roaring and ringing echoes.
At the helm of the studio was an Oscar-winning senior re-recording mixer Mike Hedges, Known for his work on the hit films of Sir Peter Jackson King Kong and The Hobbit trilogy and Taika Waititi Boy.
Sitting in the living room, watching his hard work come to life, was conservationist Jamie Joseph – the driving force behind the Kimana tuskers short film.
* Rare migrating seabirds released into the wind after crash landing in King Country
* Duck hunting season: a permit to kill our endangered species
* Residents of Golden Bay work to protect the kea’s nest, support the chicks
* The island of Rotoroa: the wild “ triumph ” at the gates of Auckland
“It was an amazing learning experience, and it was very collaborative.”
Joseph, who wrote and directed the film, referred to the group of creatives who made this happen “the A-Team.”
The list of credits includes BAFTA-winning wildlife filmmaker Bertie Gregory, who worked on a number of Sir David Attenborough documentaries, and Kiwi composer Stephen Gallagher who worked on The Hobbit, The beautiful bones, and collaborated with Ed Sheeran.
Two-time Oscar nominated actor Djimon Hounsou who stars in Blood diamond, Gladiator, and A Quiet Place, Part II, lent his voice to the narration.
Kimana tuskers brings to life the story of one of the last great tusker elephants living in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem – known as the Kimana Wildlife Corridor in Kenya.
It features no humans, instead highlighting the destruction and loss caused by the development of land in the region.
“It’s an endangered landscape seen through the eyes of a famous advocate known as Craig,” said Joseph, a South African conservationist who founded the charity Saving the Wild based in New Zealand.
The elephant bull Craig, whose ivory almost grazes the ground when he walks – hence the name “tusks” – is one of some 20 tuskers remaining in the world. Many have been killed by poachers.
The 12-minute film is unlike the blockbusters regularly shown on the big screen at Wellington’s production studio, and was a first for Hedges, who was responsible for perfecting the accompanying sound.
“You truly feel the power and majesty of these magnificent elephants come to life in their beautiful surroundings.
“Having such images to work with really makes a huge difference in creating the landscape with realistic music, moods and sound effects.”
Hedges hoped his work contributed to change.
Gallagher worked on composing the music for the film and talked about his desire to color the score with inviting textures.
“The score was to guide us through an intimate glimpse of the elephant herd in the enormity of the Kenyan landscape, then underpin it all with a heavy threat that obscured them.
“Music is a moving tourist guide. The message is clear but full of hope. “
It was Joseph’s first time directing and producing a short film, an experience she described as “breathtaking”.
A former producer of music festivals, the activist turned to filmmaking for change. She’s hoping this film will do just that, thanks to support from the Park Road Post.
“[The team has] such a wealth of experience … It means so much to me that they actually believed in me in the first place to do this.
“It is certainly a humility to receive so much support, and I am eternally grateful.”
Calling on Hounsou was also a feat for Joseph.
“Djimon is already a deeply passionate conservationist, so he was so passionate about this movie… to have his support on it was amazing.”
Talk to Thing At the Park Road Post offices in Miramar, Joseph paused to find the words to describe his film: “Extraordinary but banishing.
She explained how she decided to make a film that had not yet been made to raise awareness of the issues that threaten wildlife in Kenya.
“We need to have as many eyeballs as possible on this and make sure people understand that this is an endangered landscape and that we are running out of time.”
While poaching remains a pressing issue in Kenya, Joseph has noticed the conversation shift in recent years towards the threat of habitat loss. While filming, Joseph saw bulldozers come in, tear up the grounds, and Craig trying to cross a busy road.
“Spending time in Kenya… was a huge wake-up call.
“The problem we are facing now is invasions of very, very questionable farms.”
Craig’s house in Kenya is disappearing in the hands of farmers and developers. If nothing is done, these animals will have nowhere to go, warns Joseph.
“When the earth is gone, it’s gone forever … It’s a very serious film, everything is at stake. Everything.
“It’s one of the … last great wild places on Earth, so if we can’t protect that, what can we protect?”
Saving the Wild, in partnership with Big Life Foundation and Comvita, has already started to effect change.
The organization has set up over 200 beehives across the corridor, with all proceeds from the sale of honey going to a scholarship fund for the community. Through an initiative to encourage people to adopt beehives, Joseph and the team hope to create enough incentives for local developers to keep the land wild and save the Kimana Wildlife Corridor.
The film is screened for free at Comvita’s Wellness Lab in Auckland from May 25 to the end of June, with more screenings being added across the country.