This in-depth look into the powerhouse industries of big-game hunting, breeding and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa unravels the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities.
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★★★★ review by Jay D 's Watching on Letterboxd
"I just don't understand how people can't understand how God raised that animal into complete existence."
One of those cases where any sort of star system seems absurdly restrictive, just because of the way the film's subject matter meshes with my own biases and preoccupations as a viewer. This is a beautifully-shot and (I suspect) genuinely haunting documentary about wildlife preservation, specifically in Africa and the Big Game industry of hunters that's grown up there--the challenges of keeping animals alive and the current role humans play in that, both legally and illegally. I went back and forth between two different star ratings, and I ended up going with the higher one. Let me try to explain why.
There are upsetting, undeniable numbers regarding the massive drop in the populations of elephants, rhinos, etc, over the past century. There are interviews that show both how committed some people are to wildlife preservation, and how committed other people are to finding animals (particularly the 'big five') and killing them. There are lovingly-filmed scenes of animals bleeding out as people (often the people who shot them) stand around, staring. There's a crocodile and an elephant that will stay with me for a while, in particular.
I am one of those people who gets upset, possibly more upset by violence against animals on camera than I do about people, depending on my mood. Violence against animals for the purpose of commercial film making doesn't sit well with me at all. If you are like me in this regard, I suspect this movie would be incredibly difficult to take.
If you are like me in this regard, I also suspect this movie is vital in highlighting the breadth of opinions and how complex the issues can be on the ground, how uphill the battle to save some of these species actually is (Exhibit A: www.cnn.com/2018/03/02/africa/northern-white-rhino-infection/index.html)
At the same time, if you're not like me, this film is still compelling, i'd argue perhaps, maybe necessary viewing to raise a host of questions of just what our relationship is going to be with the planet around us going forward if we're going to somehow find ways to sustain ourselves and the planet.
I don't know, I'm still kicking this around in my head. Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau have made a really strong film, here-I haven't even talked about Philip Glass (no relation to the composer) here. There's a lot to take in.
★★★★ review by Matt Thomas on Letterboxd
Whatever your views on game hunting and conservation are, it would be difficult not to feel for the animals, people and communities involved in this massive mess of a situation. Fascinating insights, statistics, and perspectives. Fairly well rounded too.
★★★★ review by Rus Ekkel on Letterboxd
Highly disturbing documentary
★★★½ review by Niall Blackie on Letterboxd
Seen as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge 2017 - film number 59.
While I found myself getting really involved in the premise of the film, examining the issue of big game trophy hunting from both sides, I do have to recognise the weaknesses in the film.
I found myself getting more and more angry towards the buffoons on screen trying to justify them hunting or raising these animals to be hunted which the documentary clearly set out to get you to do however, the film for me lacked any real narrative arc. If there had been more of a structure to the story it was telling and the arguments on both sides of the fence, well then I feel I may have been more invested in the movie, going away to find out more about the subject matter and not just felt myself getting angry at the screen which was what happened.
★★★★ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
For all the insight they can bring, watching documentaries can be pretty bad for your health. If the urgent messages posed by many were all to be treated equally it would be hard to get out of bed in the morning. This year alone we've had an exposé on mass sporting corruption, a strong reminder about the dangers of global warming and a call to arms to protect the building blocks of the ocean floor, to name but a few. Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz’s documentary, Trophy, is another to add to that list, although it presents a much more complicated picture about big-game hunting than you might first imagine.
Making an even handed film about animal trophy hunters is a tough ask in a climate where the hatred shown towards them is at an all-time high. It's a divisive subject, much like many others around the world at the moment, and the two directors do an admirable job in taking a non-judgemental stance about such a sensitive topic. What started out as a clear cut anti-hunting documentary unearthed a complex eco-system far removed from the black and white arguments made by pro and anti-hunters living outside of the African continent.
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