As more research is conducted and first hand accounts are documented, we are realizing that animals are not only sentient, but intelligent, emotional beings. Capable of mourning and experiencing joy, animals are more similar to people than we ever thought before. No other animal seems to prove this point more than the elephant.
Despite our knowledge that these animals are smart, sympathetic and loving, they are in danger of being poached to extinction due to the illegal ivory trade. It is estimated that one elephant is poached every 15 minutes, meaning that if we continue down the path we are on, elephants will go extinct within our lifetimes. This beloved and admired animal could actually vanish in the blink of an eye.
Thankfully, many people are working to end this possibility by spreading the message of how the illegal ivory trade is driving the extinction of elephants. Academy Award winning director and producer Louise Hogarth, of Dream Out Loud Films, and a crew of passionate individuals have come together to create a documentary that will do just this.
Exploring several different stories of these amazing creatures, the team hopes to inspire us all to act with compassion and offer these wonderful animals the protection they so desperately need.
Do Elephants Go to Heaven?
The documentary, entitled Do Elephants Go to Heaven?, has already completed pre-production. Unlike many elephant documentaries, this film doesn’t aim to scare the public into helping elephants. There will be no horrific footage of poaching. Rather it is meant to be a positive and uplifting journey.
“We will focus on showing elephants and less of the imagery of abuse and cruelty that usually characterizes films in this genre – inspiring stories which motivate action and accelerate change rather than leaving the viewer in a pit of despair,” Kirsten Rogers, director of communications at Dream Out Loud Films, explains to One Green Planet.
Having already identified several tales of elephant altruism and compassion, the film is going to focus on the beautiful things elephants are capable of. The film also employs the help of Danielle MacKinnon, an animal intuitive, to better understand what elephants both in the wild and in captivity are facing.
“Animal Communication is the art of tapping into the universal language that all species use to communicate with each other,” explains Rogers. “As an animal communicator, Danielle can connect with an animal and receive images and feelings, hear words, feel emotions, experience body pains and more – all because the animal sent that information to her. She is also able to communicate back to the animal using the same language. This creates a non-verbal intuitive connection between the animal and the communicator.”
An amazing scene of MacKinnon at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington has already been shot for the film. In the scene, Danielle communicates with the elephants held there in an attempt to understand the cruelty they experience when imprisoned at the zoo.
The film will also feature African safari guides who observe the actions of wild elephants on a daily basis. These guides have an intimate knowledge of the struggles facing wild elephants. For example, they witnessed the capture and journey of Zimbabwe’s kidnaped baby elephants. Many of these wild baby elephants are destined for a life in a zoos and 50-60 years of misery in captivity; they will never know the freedom of their native lands again.
Gathering More Stories
Having already finished pre-production, the crew is hoping to continue shooting footage over the course of the next year. With plans to shoot in Africa, China and the U.S., the film is going to eloquently tell the story of elephants across the world. By translating the final film into Mandarin, the crew hopes to reach the two largest markets for ivory, China and the U.S., and inspire people to stop the demand for this good.
After the filming of her documentary, Angels in the Dust, which recounts how the AIDS crisis has impacted South African villages, Louise Hogarth founded the DO Ubuntu Orphan Campaign. This campaign created employment for 80 bracelet crafters in South Africa. The income these crafters make from the bracelets they sell through the campaign helps them provide food, clothing and shelter for their children. Hogarth is hoping to launch a similar campaign for the release of Do Elephants Go to Heaven?.
“After the release of the film Louise plans to replicate the success of the Orphan Bracelet Campaign by creating employment for villagers living in high-poaching areas,” says Rogers. “One way to stop poaching is to show how living elephants play an important role in local economies.”
She continues to explain that elephants are worth 76 times more alive than dead for these villages and small economies. Not only do elephants bring in eco-tourism, but they also can help with other interesting business ventures.
“We plan to establish a poo paper business, in partnership with an elephant orphanage, to train the locals in the fine art of making paper from elephant dung. We will also be making elephant ‘hair’ (really grass) bracelets,” explains Rogers. “This will generate income from both tourism and sales and allow us to pay living wages to local employees and provide care to orphaned elephants.”
Not only will these businesses create a stable income for local people, but it will help them to understand the vital role that elephants play in their communities. But above all, it will inspire them to protect the species they share their homes with.
How You Can Help This Film Become Reality
Though Do Elephants Go the Heaven? is well under way, they still have a great deal of work ahead of them to complete such an intensive project. The documentary is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and is hoping to raise at least $50,000 to continue production.
“[Using] animal communicators, safari guides, animated scenes, etc. is a unique approach that will appeal to and help engage the enormous majority of people who, understandably, turn away from watching scenes of abuse/cruelty. These people need to be educated and motivated to act,” explains Rogers. “Apathy and ignorance are the greatest danger to elephants.”
To learn more about the film or watch clips of footage, visit the Dream Out Loud Films website here.