Lion Ark, the Animal Defenders International (ADI) documentary about the charity's incredible rescue of 25 circus lions in Bolivia, has just won its fourth and fifth awards - for Best Environmental Film at the Sedona International Film Festival in Arizona, and the jury prize for Best Documentary Film at the Omaha Film Festival in Nebraska.
The documentary has already won awards at the San Diego Film Festival (Audience Choice Award), the Sun & Sand Film and Music Festival (Best Documentary Award) and the Anchorage Film Festival (Audience Choice Award), and was nominated for Outstanding International Motion Picture at the 45th NAACP Image Awards.
Lion Ark, the true story of an ambitious and highly dangerous international rescue by a diverse group of people from Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Britain and America, has been a hit on the film festival circuit since its release last October. It’s been shown at the Raindance, Mill Valley, Starz Denver and Virginia film festivals, and the Hawaii, Fort Lauderdale, Irvine and Beloit International film festivals, and a further screening is scheduled for the forthcoming Palm Beach International Film Festival.
The film shows in stark reality the enormous task facing the ADI rescue team as it fought to rescue these 25 lions from a number of illegal circuses across Bolivia, a story which began with an undercover investigation revealing the appalling conditions which these animals - filthy, starving and struggling for survival - were forced to endure . As a result of this investigation, animal circuses in Bolivia were banned, but that had no effect on the circus owners, they simply continued to run their shows in defiance of the law.
The team behind the investigation returned to Bolivia to track down every one of these circuses - which were operating across the entire country - to save every lion. Combining live action, conversations, interviews and reactions - all of which took place as events actually unfolded - Lion Ark shows the harsh reality of the confrontations, the heartache and incredible risks which the team had to face - not knowing whether or not they’d succeed in their mission to remove the lions from a life of shocking cruelty.
Having to contend with furious circus owners - and even more furious lions - they also faced treacherous journeys, as the trucks loaded with lions struggled to negotiate perilous mountain passes. Field stations had to be built from scratch - to provide facilities for the lions to be nursed back to health before their onward journey to the US - with rescuers desperately trying to hold together the rusting and collapsing cages which were their only protection from the angry lions.
Lion Ark was written and co-produced by Jan Creamer, President and co-founder of Animal Defenders International. Director Tim Phillips describes it as “a film about respect for people and animals ... you see the worst of humanity, but also humanity at its best ... Lion Ark shows how animal protection is a vital part of the fabric of social justice, where human society draws a line as to what is, and is not, acceptable”. There's also an appearance by actress Jorja Fox - an associate producer of the film.
Unquestionably a thrilling adventure, Lion Ark also represents a remarkable episode in history. It’s a story of bravery, compassion, camaraderie and determination, culminating in a huge operation to airlift these 25 lions to a place of sanctuary in Colorado. It’s also the uplifting story about a poor, but proud, country which said 'no' to cruelty - its people cheering in the street at the sight of an ageing lion heading to a new home after a lifetime of loneliness. Most importantly, though, this heroic undertaking has been the catalyst for a change in attitudes to animals across an entire continent.
See the Lion Ark trailer online at: www.lionarkthemovie.com