The Black Cat Picture Show film festival in Augusta, Georgia, has chosen "Elephants in the Coffee" as one of the films it will show on the weekend of August 18-20, 2017.
This is particularly meaningful to D.K. Bhaskar and me because we met in Augusta about 10 years ago. I was editing a newspaper, the Metro Spirit, and Bhaskar offered to his services as photographer. He was instantly the best photographer I had ever worked with, and we have worked together ever since.
The Black Cat festival will be held at Le Chat Noir, a charming venue in downtown Augusta. To all our friends in Augusta, we are very pleased to be able to show our film to you.
And if you would like to help support the film, buy a pass to the film festival and vote for "Elephants" in the viewers choice category. I have no doubt there will be many good films to choose from, however.
Last years winners included "The iMom," "The Backpage," and "Daddy Don't Go" (in documentaries).
In recent weeks, we have seen more stories about conflicts between farmers and elephants. One writer for the Guardian points out the conflicts in an area in southern India, near where we shot "Elephants in the Coffee."
Tarsh Thekaekara writes:
I grew up in a small town called Gudalur in the Nilgiri Hills, among elephants and stories about them. Elephants always fascinated me, and I’m in the middle of a PhD, trying to better understand how people and elephants share space. It’s an interest that almost grew out of necessity. The Gudalur region is about 500 square kilometres, or about one third the size of London, covered mostly by tea and coffee plantations and patches of forests. It’s home to a quarter of a million people, about 150 elephants and a host of other wild animals ranging from bears and tigers to flycatchers and martens. Every year, about a dozen people get killed in accidental encounters with elephants.
Another article in the Guardian points out that conflicts over land (think farming) are going to get worse. James Randerson writes:
According to the 2013 Elephants in the Dust report by a group of conservation NGOs, an estimated 29% of the animals’ known and possible range is heavily affected by human development. That figure is predicted to rise to 63% by 2050.
That's why CLIC Abroad, the non-profit behind "Elephants in the Coffee," is concerned with trying to find ways for elephants and humans to co-exist on the same lands. If we don't find a way, the future for elephants is indeed, and K.M. Chinappa says, bleak, indeed.
Editor and photographer Duane Regher has created a new trailer for the film, one that shows more of the drama of the documentary.
The film's next showings are in Kansas at the Doc Sunback Film Festival in Mulvane, which is just south of Wichita. D.K. Bhaskar, who resides in Lenexa, Kansas, will travel with me to the festival on June 23-24.
"Elephants in the Coffee" has also been selected by the Canadian Diversity Film Festival in Toronto. That means we have so far been selected by six film festivals, and been named a semi-finalist in a seventh.
Take a look at the new trailer. We think it will tell you why this film is worth a few minutes of your time.
"The Good City" writer Subhalakshmi Roy reviewed "Elephants in the Coffee" after D.K. Bhaskar presented the film to the Press Club of Bangalore in May.
He writes, "Shot mainly around Nagarahole National Park and the surrounding coffee estates, the film is an unsparing analysis of how the animal which was once revered as the living embodiment of Lord Ganesha, is now seen as a ‘giant menace’."
The article notes that the district of Coorg, also known as Kogadu, produces about a third of India's coffee, and it is going through ecological turmoil. The growth of coffee plantations has come at the expense of elephant habitat. Now those plantations are "hotbeds of man-animal conflicts," he writes.
Roy suggests the government's current solution of capturing killer elephants and forcing them into a lifetime of submission to man is a terrible vision of the future. "It is heart-breaking to see the largest land mammal in a cage – alive, but in servitude," he writes.
The New Indian Express, a 400-thousand circulation daily in Chennai, picked up on the most frightening thing in "Elephants in the Coffee."
A revered former forest warden, K.M. Chinappa, says the future of elephants in south India is bleak unless some agricultural land is taken back from farmers and reserved for elephants. The headline in the New Indian Express reads, "There may not be elephants in India 50 years from now."
The quote attributed to D.K. Bhaskar represents the greatest fear of conservationists, as is explained in the documentary. However, the documentary's dominant message is about ongoing efforts to reduce elephant conflicts in the region.
Bhaskar has been showing the film in India, including presentations to people related to the coffee industry and national forests. Our great hope is that the film stimulates greater conversations that can lead to a long-term solution to elephant-agriculture conflicts.
"Elephants in the Coffee" was selected a semi-finalist in the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival for April in the category Nature, Environment and Wildlife.
Of course we would like to win, but the films we competed against were impressive. The winner was
"Antarctica," which features beautiful photography of life on the ice-covered continent. You can see a sample here.
The other finalist was "A Little Gardener," a movie from India. This appears to be a fictional movie as opposed to a documentary, but it is also beautiful and has a charming child at the center of the story.
The other semi finalist was "Captain Piers' Whales," also a documentary.
DK Bhaskar called from Bangalore this morning with an urgent request. News 9, which is featured in the documentary, wanted to do a story about it.
We were very pleased to help. The media attention given to "Elephants in the Coffee" in south India has been phenomenal. People are hungry to know more about the elephant-human conflict. Bhaskar says many of the people who came to our showings have never before seen an elephant capture.
In addition, the documentary is being considered for a documentary festival in Rome and in a documentary competition in California. These are both competitions, and the world has many talented documentary filmmakers who have much better funding than we have. As novices, we're happy to have a chance to compete.
One thing separates "Elephants in the Coffee" from many other documentaries. This is a journalistic effort, and tries not to push one point of view over another. Many popular documentaries are used a vehicles to promote the filmmaker's view of the world. Many times, that helps those documentaries succeed. They tell a story that matches the preconceptions of their audience.
"Elephants in the Coffee" makes no pretense of knowing all the answers. However, it raises important questions. We think it could be the beginning of an important discussion: How can elephants and coffee farmers co-exist?