Documentary braves dangerous paths
STROOP - Journey Into The Rhino War tells the shocking and touching story of the ongoing poaching of the rhinoceros and the trade in its coveted horn.
Now the locally-produced film has been awarded the 2018 Green Tenacity Award at the Eighth Annual San Francisco Green Film Festival.
Marchelle Abrahams speaks to Bonné de Bod, who produced and presented the movie.
Congratulations on winning the Green Tenacity Award. What was the first thing that went through your mind when hearing that your film had won?
Thank-you so much! It is always amazing to get recognition for something but it is sad that it has to be about this.
We were so thrilled that the film had made the official selection, so I think awe-struck when the San Francisco Green festival director contacted us to say that the jury had met and felt unanimously that exposing this environmental crisis deserved their highest award.
It just proved to me what I had felt all along and knew to be true, that people around the world care about what is happening in South Africa. African story that is being seen for what it is… truth from the grounds of war.
It sounds like you and Susan Scott gave up everything to make the documentary. Was there a time that you felt like just giving up?
Interesting that you ask this question… just the other day Susan was asked that exact same question by another filmmaker who is just starting her journey into something similar!
And she answered that we actually didn’t have an option. We couldn’t give up. We poured everything into this film, “stupidly” some people in the film industry will say… from selling our homes, leaving our full-time jobs at broadcasters to even moving in with our mothers! There was no way that we could give up!
Was there ever a time that you felt that your life was in danger? If so, can you recall the scenario?
Oh yes, during our undercover work in Asia. We visited a group of villages known for dealing in illegal wildlife products quite a few times.
In fact the dealers working out of these villages have bribed local officials and are left to their own devices and you can feel that there is a different law operating there.
On one of our trips into one of these villages, we somehow found ourselves in the back of a car, being driven by two young, gangster-like dealers to see the rhino horn and ivory carving workshops.
It was stupid and reckless because while Susan had hidden cameras everywhere, they were disguised as something else. So they could easily pass but those kinds of cameras are easily interfered with by cellphone jammers, which these dealers use.
So to avoid losing footage and having at least one camera actively recording, Susan had duck-taped a GoPro to my body. If we were searched when we arrived at the workshops or my scarf moved with the wind… we would’ve been in serious trouble.
You are so passionate about wildlife conservation. What is next on the agenda for you?
A long holiday! No I’m kidding, unfortunately or fortunately I can’t sit still for very long.
Even though we were filming for four years on STROOP - journey into the rhino horn war ideas for other projects would come up, but we would of course push them aside and focus on the job at hand. But I can say, that during our time in Asia, we experienced air pollution on another level.
What should South Africa be doing more of to secure the protection of our rhinos?
People say to me that they’re tired of hearing about the rhino thing… I am tired of hearing that from South Africans. I really am.
How dare we say that if we expect our rangers on the ground to lace up their shoes and put their gear on every morning to face another day on the battleground… if we expect the state prosecutors to pick up their dozens of case files, throw their robes on and walk back into the courtroom to face forty accused poachers in the dock daily… then how can we as the public give up and let other South Africans do the fighting for us?
We all have strengths that we can use in this battle.There are so many ways that a small action by normal citizens has a powerful impact.
* Stroop - Journey Into The Rhino Horn War will premiere in SA in February 2019 after its film festival run overseas.