SF DocFest 2018: ELEPHANT PATH – NJAIA NJOKU
First show: June 10
Dzanga Bai-village of elephants-is a clearing in the rainforest in a remote corner of the Central African Republic (CAR). African Grey parrots swoop and rare Forest Elephants congregate here to bathe in the mud and drink the mineral-rich water. According to Andrea Turkalo, an American field biologist who has studied the Forest Elephants for twenty-three years, “Dzanga Bai is one of the wonders of the natural world.”
But the lush canopy in the Dzanga National Park is not enough to keep the elephants safe. Political unrest, poverty, and greed fuel a poaching pandemic that threatens their very existence. Fifty thousand elephants live in the Central African Rainforest. Last year, 14,000 were illegally slaughtered for their ivory.
As the CAR descends into lawlessness and chaos, the lives of the people dedicated to safeguarding these elephants converge. Among them is Sessely Bernard, an elder of the Bayaka tribe, the indigenous people; Zephirine Mbele, an eco-guard on the front lines of the anti-poaching efforts; Nir Kalron, Israeli environmental security contractor. And Andrea, whose sustained presence at the clearing and her close relationship with the Bayaka have been important factors in keeping poaching to a minimum at Dzanga Bai. Each day Andrea and Sessely sit side by side on the wooden observation platform, talking quietly about the elephants as they file in from the forest. Moses has a scar. Anatol has rips in his ears. Brys likes to charge. There is Romana, Ezra, Izzy and Madonna. For decades Andrea and Sessely have watched the elephants bathe and play and grow. They’ve seen newborns coaxed along, youths tussle, and young bulls learn to be males. But when they receive word that the Seleka, an alliance of rebel militia factions that overthrew the government, is about to enter the park they are forced to leave their post.
The rebels declare that no one may enter they park; they alone will patrol it. Andrea flees for the border. Sessely and his tribe leave their village and seek sanctuary in the rainforest. Zephirine retreats to the relative safety of the nearby Bantu village.
Directed by Todd McGrain. 79 minutes. USA. 2018. World Premiere.
REGULAR TICKETS $13/ADVANCE, $15/DOOR
SF DocFest 2018: ELEPHANT PATH - NJAIA NJOKU: Upcoming Showtimes