Animal Defenders International has teamed up with film director Tim Phillips to create the documentary Lion Ark. While more action-adventure than traditional documentary, Lion Ark follows the world's most ambitious and daring animal rescue.
A shocking undercover investigation lead to a ban on animal circuses in Bolivia. But -- not surprisingly -- the circuses defy the law. Instead of resigning themselves to the reality of the situation, the investigation team fights back. They track down the illegal circuses and save every animal.
The confrontations, heartache and incredible risks the rescue team face are all captured on film. "What we wanted to do with Lion Ark was have everything taking place as the story unfolded," said director Tim Phillips, "with interviews and personal commentary within the context of the story."
Lion Ark is is an exposé of a serious subject, but it is also a gloriously uplifting of bravery, compassion, and determination. Lion Ark is making it's Texas debut at the Paramount in Austin on May 25th.
Jan Creamer, President of ADI, talked to us about the film, and why it's premiering in Austin.
What is the importance of Lion Ark, and why did you set out to make this film?
Jan: Lion Ark will change the way that people feel about animals in entertainment. Audiences watching animals perform in the circus (or in TV or film) usually believe that the animals are loved and cherised, and that they have a special relationship with their trainer.
But this is just the act, the show; they don't see the cost to the animals in pain and suffering, just to provide us with a few minutes of entertainment. Lion Ark shows the cost, but the film is subtle in that it does not lecture – it raises awareness with humor and a sense of excitement and joy – the lions get to win!
Lion Ark tells the story of Bolivia's decision to end the use of animals in traveling circuses, and how that country asked Animal Defenders International to help them to seize all of the animals from illegal circuses, after they had been outlawed by the government.
Lion Ark is more action adventure style than the usual "talking heads" documentary style – all live action, up close and personal, the audience feels what we feel as we go in and rescue the lions – wrenching them away from the illegal circuses and owners who don't want to give them up.
Through an enjoyable action adventure story, the audience gets to know the individual lions and understand them in a way that would not be possible in any other way. We wanted the film to be fun, and audiences all over the US have been loving it!
Why is this premiering in Austin?
Jan: We have been screening Lion Ark at film festivals and other events all over the US, and we wanted to be sure that we did not miss the important state of Texas! We really feel that the style of the movie, the live action and the risks we take, will really resonate with Texans and with their love of nature and respect for the wild. Austin is a wonderful city and perfect for the State premiere.
How was the film received by animal rights groups in Austin?
Jan: Groups everywhere have been loving Lion Ark and we know that those who have not seen it yet, are in for a real treat! We've had many people come back to see Lion Ark again and again – one lady in Florida loved it so much that she came to every screening in one week!
The film has been hugely popular on the film festival circuit with lots of sell out screenings, and of the six awards the film has won, four were voted for by the audiences in Florida, California, Nebraska and Arizona.
That's really what we wanted, a film about a serious issue that people would actually enjoy. It's a film for everyone, not just animal protectionists.
Here in Austin we already have The Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary and Different Rhythm Foundation helping to promote the screening on May 25th and we hope to be involving many others.
What do you hope to happen as a result of this movie?
Jan: Lion Ark is designed to empower people and show them how they can make a difference – by helping us to save more animals with their donations and by only attending circus shows with human performers.
We hope that Texans will enjoy the movie as much as others have across the country, but also, come out of the screening feeling inspired and energized. People can help us save animals by making a contribution to our next big challenge – the Government of Peru has asked Animal Defenders International to help them to take all of the wild animals out of their circuses, following a change in the law.
This year, we have to go to Peru and get at least 19 African lions, and bring them to safety, to a sanctuary in the US. The people of Texas can save these animals from cruelty and starvation by giving us a donation towards the Peru rescue!
For more details, head over to LionArk's official website.