"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?
Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College