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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★★★★½ review by Daniel Tucker on Letterboxd
*Originally Posted on Next Projection*
So often are documentaries clear in their intentions and point of view, but then a movie like Trophy comes along and objectively provides you with difficult, complex issues to which there are seemingly no easy solutions. Saul Schwartz and his co-director Christina Clusiau turn their lens on the lucrative industry of big-game hunting and ongoing attempts at wildlife conservation.
An early scene in Trophy unflinchingly follows of a group of South Africans as they take down a rhinoceros and use an electric saw to chop its horn off before setting it free. The group aren’t poachers but conservationists, who remove the rhino’s horn to deter actual poachers from killing the animal for a profit. We spend a lot of time with another organization who uses money earned from setting up hunts in the wild to further conservation of endangered species. If the killing of one animal provides funds to save a dozen more, are we able to forgive a necessary evil?
Trophy doesn’t provide any easy answers, if any, to the events it shows us. We are shown several killings of animals and learn about the various motives behind them. We also get to know the kinds of people that eagerly participate in hunts, though their intentions aren’t necessarily in line with those of the conservationists. Black and white issues in society are easier to come to grips with and form an opinion on, but it’s the grey areas that are harder to wrap your head around. Trophy is not an entertaining watch, but it is an important and challenging one.
★★★★ review by Heather Forrester on Letterboxd
This is a complex, tough topic and the filmmakers do a good job showing this. It just feels wrong to kill a living creature with a soul for sport, yet it is also understandable that you have to kill sometimes for various reasons. I myself grew up in a farming family where we sold our cattle at auction, we fished, my grandfather and uncles had deer leases, yet I also discovered the Born Free series of books as a pre-teen and had a whole world of poaching and slaughter introduced to my young psyche (the author of Born Free, Joy Adamson, was murdered by poachers as was her husband at a later time). The impact of Joy's life and work has stuck with me ever since. It's a definite contrast, and there is no blanket answer.
What I would love to see is for these filmmakers to do an entire mini series on this topic, with even more attention paid to the commerce and money of sport hunting and poaching. This topic deserves in depth attention. As the director stated at the Q&A, it is likely going to be too late for beloved rhinos.
★★★★ review by Rob Trench on Letterboxd
One of them most shocking nature documentaries I've seen in a while. Has the potential to be one of the year's most talked about films of its category.
Reviewed here for Talk Film Society: www.talkfilmsociety.com/reviews/sxsw-2017-trophy
★★★½ review by Jason Bailey on Letterboxd
The film insists on looking beyond those numbers, to questions of empathy with locals, to the financial teeter-totter these countries are trapped on, to the realization that there is no skeleton key to fix this problem. It’s an emotional issue that requires nuanced discussion and solutions, and kudos to Trophy for giving them their proper weight.
★★★½ review by Dan Mecca on Letterboxd
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