Conflict photographer Kate Brooks turns her lens from the war zones to the killing of African Elephants and Rhinos in ‘The Last Animals’ this sweeping and sobering expose of an underreported crisis.
Brooks outlines the myriad factors contributing to the current epidemic of highly effective poaching and trafficking syndicates, drawing startling connections between the illegal wildlife trade and international terrorism and border security. The documentary follows the conservationists, scientists and activists battling poachers and transnational trafficking syndicates to protect elephants and rhinos from extinction. From Africa’s frontlines to behind the scenes of Asian markets to the United States, the film takes an intense look at the global response to this slaughter and the desperate measures to genetically rescue the Northern White rhinos who are on the edge of extinction.
Here, as ‘The Last Animals’ wraps its 2017 Hot Docs and Tribeca Film Festival runs, we profile Kate Brooks on her approach to the film and its subject matter.
What was the first aspect of ‘The Last Animals’ that told you to make this a feature length production? Was it a certain personality, theme, mental image, or something else entirely?
Some years ago I worked on a documentary called The Boxing Girls of Kabul. That experience sparked my passion for documentary filmmaking. I wanted to make more documentaries and given the complexities of issues behind and around the illegal wildlife trade, I felt motion picture was the right medium to tell this story.
Describe the visual strategy behind the film? How did your approach to the film’s photography develop over its production? Was there ever a moment of significant adjustment from your original vision?
I started filming the project on SLR cameras, and throughout the project, SLR cameras were used. But over time, the circle of cameramen expanded due to the fact that we were filming in so many locations around the globe or in situations that required two camera coverage. I have favorite cameras types, but more important than the camera itself is the eye of the person operating the camera.
With the film hitting Tribeca and Hot Docs, describe how you plan to further expand its accessibility to wide audiences?
The film will continue on the festival circuit. After Hot Docs, we are scheduled to screen at Seattle International Film Festival and Sheffield Doc Festival in the UK. From there the film is likely to have some kind of theatrical release and go on to broadcast.
Can you talk a little about the design aspects of the film’s branding…for example, choice of font, color, and the development of its poster. How do you view the branding strategy of the film?
The TV series Homeland largely inspired the font because the world of wildlife trafficking is full of intrigue, international crime, corruption. We don’t currently have a poster as we’ll wait until the film goes into full distribution to design one.
Finally, if you could describe your film in one word, what would it be?