SOUTH African actor and producer Emmanuel Castis with Toby Wosskow, US writer and director of the short film Sides of a Horn which will debut in Los Angeles and Johannesburg today, World Rhino Day.
Durban - A SHORT film, Sides of a Horn, on rhino poaching in South Africa, is set to debut in Los Angeles and Johannesburg today, digging below the surface into the complexities of, and lives affected by, the poaching trade.

With Richard Branson as executive producer, the film was written and directed by Toby Wosskow, who worked with South African producer and actor Emmanuel Castis, well known for his role in SA soapie Isidingo.

The screenings today - World Rhino Day - will be for private audiences to raise awareness of the war against poaching. The film will then be submitted to various film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, before it goes public.

Castis, an avid conservationist, said that when Wosskow contacted him about doing a film on rhino poaching in South Africa, there had been no hesitation to join forces.

“I told him it was a passion of mine, and he immediately asked me to come on board. Toby is from Los Angeles and managed to persuade Richard Branson to endorse the movie,” said Castis.

The funds to make the film were made through crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Partnerships with philanthropists, influential conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts raised $57000 (about R817 000) in a month, making it the fifth highest funded short film on the site.

“Sides of a Horn presents a unique narrative of South Africa’s rhino poaching war. It’s a multibillion-dollar trade run by highly organised international crime syndicates, but the communities on the ground in South Africa receive very little media attention, and they are being torn apart. It’s time to tell their story.

“Once we have gained traction on the short film festivals, we are looking to get support for a full feature.”

“The production took place in the Pilanesberg Reserve and, halfway through filming, a mother and calf rhino were poached. Since we were in the Pilanesberg filming last year, probably another 20-plus rhino have been taken.

“Poachers are getting brave and go into the reserves in broad daylight. There was an incident where poachers had shot a rhino and were busy taking a horn when a game drive came round the corner, and they were right there.

“It’s not just about one animal in the bush but is symbolic of what is going on in the wild, whether it’s rhino, lion or elephant. It’s a heritage we can’t afford to lose” said Castis.

Wosskow said the film is “a character study based on actual events about how two guys from the same level of poverty, the same place, even the same family can go opposite ways in this war and the impact it’s having on the rhino which is about ten years away from extinction.

The film’s official media release said the content was based on “extensive research and spending countless hours on the ground building relationships with local community leaders to ensure absolute authenticity.”

The movie exposes the social impact of the rhino horn trade, in a similar way that Blood Diamonds did for the diamond trade, by humanising those on the ground and creating awareness. The filmmakers said, by partnering with influential conservationists and global organisations, they will release the film around the world with a direct call to action.

Independent On Saturday