“When you buy something made of ivory, where does the money go?” This is the initial question that Kathryn Bigelow poses in her three-minute Public Service Announcement “Last Days,” which had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival. The PSA deals with the urgent issue of elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade, which is predominantly funding many terrorist organizations in Africa.
The PSA, made in collaboration with Scott Burns and Megan Ellison, is an aesthetic achievement that conveys the urgency of the issue through quasi-animation and potent sound mixing. In reverse chronology, it guides the viewer through the disturbing multi-faceted process in which elephants are murdered, stripped of their tusks and the sale of their ivory is used to finance the nefarious activities of terrorist groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and al-Shabaab—the group responsible for the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi one year ago. The graphic surveillance recording of this attack is used in the PSA, followed by the shocking fact that the sale of ivory provides terrorists with roughly $600,000 per month. The most jarring image is, perhaps, the live footage of the mammoth creature at risk here—the elephant—and the ultimate assertion that “sadly, there is no way to make extinction go backwards.”
Brilliant animation design by Samuel Michlap and audio mixing by “Zero Dark Thirty’s” Paul Ottison aids Bigelow’s emotional imploration to audiences to share the message. So immersive and captivating is the film that by the end of the three minutes one forgets that this is only a PSA and not the title credits for a full-length feature film. But as Bigelow justified, time is of the essence. There simply isn’t time for a feature because an elephant is killed every 15 minutes.
Watch below and find more information at the Last Days of Ivory website: