SA documentary film STROOP. Picture: Supplied

Local documentary film STROOP - journey into the rhino horn war finished its international premiere run this past weekend with impressive wins in Europe. 

After leaving the US with a final win in Boston at the Mystic Film Festival for 'Best International Documentary', the film started its European premiere with a bang at the Wildlife Film Festival Rotterdam last week.  
 
Selected to open the festival, the film secured another first by selling out the opening night. The choice of the South African film to open Europe's prestigious wildlife film festival was a risky one, as the honour is usually given to a European film or an Oscar™ nominee but "the buzz around the rhino documentary made it a natural choice," said festival director Raymond Laagerwald. 
 
“We have followed the film’s progress through the years of filming and then seeing the final product, we picked it to open even before the Americans gave it so many awards, and that just confirmed what we already knew… that the film would do well here”. 
 
The Dutch national broadcaster’s prime time news programme, Een Vandaag ran a feature about the film coming to the Netherlands which ensured a second sold out screening that the festival had put on to accommodate the hype around the film.  

It was no surprise then that the film won the coveted Flamingo Award, with the jury stating at the prize-giving ceremony: “This is an impressive and shocking film. The Jury believes the filmmakers, guided by the great main character Bonné de Bod, have managed to show us the immense complexity of the problem of rhino poaching. 

This body of work is a very powerful and emotional call to action.”
 
Producer, presenter and protagonist of STROOP, Bonné de Bod said in her acceptance speech that “all the awards are really overwhelming, in a wonderful positive way and that seeing packed movie theatres filled with the citizens of Rotterdam who engage powerfully with STROOP is affirmation once again that our rhinos do matter to the world.”

Stroop went on to close the Berlin Courage Film Festival the following day, where it collected a further two awards, Best Documentary and - the highest award handed out at the festival - The Courage Award for 'Most Courageous Film'. 
 
Adis Venero, Festival Director of the festival told the audience: “Filmmakers from all over the world submitted 400 films for consideration into our film festival and although they covered many different themes, issues and styles, there was no doubt about our winner, STROOP. 
 
"This film was exactly what the jury was looking for and it represents courage of great magnitude, not only from the filmmakers but from those documented in the film who are risking their lives in many different situations to represent a positive change for a species that is simply journeying on the planet with us.”
 
Speaking in Berlin, Scott said: “We started thinking the film would take six months; it turned into four years because we had to build trust and filming the situation on the ground was just so complex. 

"So it’s been a long and emotional odyssey making STROOP, but the attention and global awareness this film has been getting has really taken us by surprise. We hoped for this but seeing it actually happen on such a large scale is just incredible."
 
Scott added: "So many people who have watched out movie over the past few weeks have been significantly moved by the film, and our eyes have been opened to the awareness that has come out of the film festival run.  Americans and Europeans really believe that each person can action things and have an effect… so I am positive that change will come from STROOP. I really am.”
 
The film has been officially selected for further film festivals in the United States in November but the filmmakers have chosen to return home to premiere the film for the South African public earlier than planned, due to its successful international run.  

No local distributor has chosen to run the film here in South Africa leaving the filmmakers with the daunting task of self-distributing the film which they have committed to doing. 
 
The film is expected to have its South African premiere at the end of November.  
 
Award wins for STROOP - journey into the rhino horn war include:
 
San Francisco Green Film Festival - The Green Tenacity Award
Santa Cruz Film Festival - Spirit of Action Feature Film Award
San Pedro International Film Festival - Best Documentary Award
Glendale International Film Festival - Best Female Filmmaker Award
LA Femme International Film Festival - Special Focus Documentary Award
San Diego International Film Festival - Best Documentary Award
Mystic Film Festival - Best International Documentary Award
Wildlife Film Festival Rotterdam - Newcomer Award
Berlin Courage Film Festival - Best Documentary Award and The Courage Award for Most Courageous Film

IOL/Supplied