The free screening on Saturday, September 27 at 6PM at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center included a panel
moderated by Bigelow, “The Crisis in Elephant Poaching,” featuring WildAid’s Peter Knights, Assistant District Attorney of New York County Julieta V. Lozano, journalist Peter Godwin, and Somali human rights activist K’naan Warsame.
“I was floored,” says NYFF Director Kent Jones of the film. “In three minutes, the viewer feels the horrors of elephant poaching on a global scale and gains a clear, even vivid understanding of the economic, moral and political issues involved. A powerfully concise piece of work, and we’re proud to be hosting its world premiere and providing a forum in which this urgent issue can be illuminated.”
Bigelow explains the origins of the project:
“A year ago I had a fortuitous meeting with both Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea had just returned from Sub-Saharan Africa where poachers killed herds of elephants by cyanide poisoning. After our conversation I felt compelled to enter this space, encourage a dialogue, raise awareness. Killing for ivory by organized syndicates was now being carried out on an industrialized scale. Working with the writer, Scott Z. Burns, we set out to connect the dots between ivory trinkets purchased at markets in China and elsewhere and the terrorist nightmares we see on the nightly news.”
Bigelow collaborated with concept designer Samuel Michlap, head of layout Lorenzo Martinez, and Duncan Studio, to take the viewer, in reverse chronology, through every step in the blood-curdling process. She identifies the sale of ivory as a funding source for terrorist organizations like Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and al-Shabab.
Wildaid.org will distribute the film via its website.
The NYFF provides more historical perspective:
In 1989, the international trade in ivory was banned, but the slaughter of African elephants has actually escalated in recent years: between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed. Only 400,000 are left. The coalition of independent organizations that has joined in a common effort to put an end to elephant poaching takes a three-pronged approach, calling for an end to the killings, an end to trafficking in ivory, and an end to the demand for ivory.
Peter Knights has been Executive Director of WildAid since its founding in 2000. He initiated the Marine Protection Program and currently leads the Demand Reduction Program for shark fin, manta ray gill rakers, ivory, and rhino horn. He was formerly a program director working on illegal wildlife trade with Global Survival Network and a senior investigator for the Environmental Investigation Agency. He specialized in conducting global on-site investigations and campaigned against the trade in wild birds for pets and the consumption of endangered species in traditional Chinese medicine, such as bear gallbladder, rhino horn, and tiger bone.
Julieta V. Lozano has been a prosecutor in New York State for over 16 years. She currently serves as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, where she handles complex white-collar criminal matters and specializes in environmental crimes. She recently conducted a large-scale investigation into multiple New York City ivory dealers, involving the seizure of nearly a ton of ivory valued at over $2 million, and resulting in felony convictions. She previously served as Chief of the Environmental Crimes Unit for the New York State Attorney General’s Office and as Assistant Secretary for the Environment under Governor Eliot Spitzer.
The New York County District Attorney’s successful prosecutions of ivory dealers provided momentum and support to a statewide effort to strengthen laws prohibiting the sale of elephant ivory. This summer, New York State enacted a bill effectively banning the sale of ivory and increasing criminal and civil penalties for the sale of ivory. The new law is dedicated in honor of Lt. John Fitzpatrick, a long-time Environmental Conservation Officer for DEC, who spearheaded investigations of illegal ivory sales, helped to institute new ivory permit procedures and raised awareness of the need to improve endangered species protections.
Peter Godwin is an award-winning foreign correspondent, author, documentary-maker, and screenwriter. After practicing human rights law in Zimbabwe, he became a foreign and war correspondent, and has reported from over 60 countries about wars in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Somalia, Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kashmir, as well as the last years of apartheid South Africa.
K’naan Warsame is a Somali Canadian poet, rapper, singer, songwriter, and human rights activist. K’naan spoke before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1999, where he performed a spoken-word piece criticizing the UN for its failed aid missions to Somalia.
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