We reached out to the winning filmmakers from our Elephant International Film Festival and asked them five questions about the experience of creating their films.
What inspired you to make this film?
Kristin: "I sent Village Beat to visit the elephant nursery at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with the goal of making a short film about the elephant poaching crisis. The two directors who make up Village Beat, Austin Peck and Anneliese Vandenberg, made the short film WILD as a result of their first visit to see the work of the DSWT. They came back to the US completely obsessed with doing more to help the orphaned elephants and to raise awareness of the brutality of poaching and toll it was taking on the elephant population. They asked me if I would finance and produce a full length feature, and that turned into Gardeners of Eden. I wanted to show people the amazing work the people on the ground in Kenya were doing to protect the baby elephants and stop the poachers."
Were there any particularly meaningful moments or experiences in the process?
Kristin: "There are so many amazing and meaningful moments when you are able to witness the work that goes into saving the orphaned baby elephants left behind after the poachers kill a herd or a mother elephant. Dame Daphne Sheldrick has committed her entire life to learning how to raise an orphaned baby elephant, and to reintroduce it into the wild. She is my inspiration in all of the work I do in conservation. And it was amazing to be given full access to the many different aspects of what the DSWT does- from the nursery where baby elephants fight for their lives with the loving care of the Keepers, to the Vet Unit calls to treat wild bulls injured by poachers, to the Anti-poaching units, who go out every day and risk their lives to save the elephants. I feel so blessed that my directors were able to capture what it is like to be fighting for elephants everyday on the ground in Kenya."
Describe some of the challenges?
Kristin: "The logistics of filming these events which happen all over Kenya was challenging. Austin and Anneliese slept in a tiny tent near the Keepers out in the bush in Tsavo National Park for days. I would not have a fraction of the beautiful footage that is in the two films if it weren’t for their toughness and ingenuity. They were able to capture the beauty and pain of the elephants by being in such intimate contact with them and gaining their trust."
What are you working on now?
Kristin: "I am continuing my work as official “Patron” to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, using the two films to help to spread awareness and raise funds to continue expanding the work of the Trust. I am working on getting the film shown all over the world so everyone can witness what the Trust does and how incredible these creatures truly are. I am very proud that it is now on Netflix and iTunes in the US. Austin Peck has moved to Nairobi and is continuing to make original content for the Trust, recently he filmed the new babies that have been born in the wild to 3 of our ex-orphans."
Anything else you would like people to know?
Kristin: "I would like people to know that there IS hope for the elephants! Through the fostering program at DSWT (thedswt.org/fostering) everyone can “adopt” an orphaned elephant and become a part of their healing. Throughout the years I have worked with the Trust, it has been so gratifying to hear from people all over the world about “their” elephant baby. As an adoptive parent you receive detailed updates on your chosen elephant, and through those updates you learn so much about what is happening to elephants and what they are actually like. It is truly through this global, caring family of people that the David Sheldrick Trust has successfully raised over 200 orphaned elephants who are now living back in the wild. They have also treated 2,000 wild elephants who otherwise would have lost their lives to poachers. They also fund aerial teams who work with the ground teams of anti-poachers, and together they have successfully caught hundreds of poachers together with the Kenyan Wildlife Service."
Kristin Davis, left, is an activist, actress and producer known for her work in television and film. Kristin was the executive producer for 'Gardeners of Eden'.