Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Slamdance with Arielle: Kifaru

It’s my pleasure to introduce Arielle, my wife and an eager new contributor who is covering the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City this year, along with a few Sundance selections.

Director David Hambridge and producer Andrew Harrison Brown discuss the film

Directed by David Hambridge
Documentary Features

I walked into Kifaru assuming it was going to be a straightforward documentary about Northern White Rhinoceroses. What I did not expect was that the film would document the lives of the rhinos’ caregivers as much as it would the animals themselves. I did not expect that I would be able to witness the moment of extinction for an entire species. I did not expect to feel attached to people halfway around the world because they care for animals in much the same way I do for humans at the end of life. But Kifaru gave me all of this and more.

Kifaru told the story of the Northern White Rhino, not from the finger-wagging perspective to shame us for what we, as human beings, have done to the species, but from the perspective of the men who care for them, who feed, bathe, socialize, and offer companionship to these massive, regal animals. The men sacrifice ten months with their families to be care for these rhinos in good and bad, understanding the value of their work and the extent to which foreign tourism enables them to feed their families. Despite not being able to communicate in ways we might understand, the animals valued and understood their relationships with their human caregivers, playing, cuddling, and respecting them in all the right ways. Tight shots of the men’s hands and faces allowed us to peer into their deep-seated worries and concerns for the animals they cared so much about, and although I could not fully understand the level of connection that could exist between a while animal and its human caregiver, the intense moments of death demonstrate in entirely authentic and vulnerable ways how cherished and mutual the love was between them.

The filmmakers were revolutionary in their ability to capture the actual moment of extinction of a special on camera. Although the science is still in process for resurrecting the Northern White Rhinoceros species through cloning or in-vitro fertilization, this film is sure to help the memory and beauty of the last original Northern White Rhinoceroses live on forever.


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