These filmmakers use movies to change the world

TIFF filmmakers discuss their adrenaline-pumping films that will also change attitudes.
Ladkani, Bernal, Spurlock, and Davidson at TIFF.
Ladkani, Bernal, Spurlock, and Davidson at TIFF © Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
By Corinna Halloran

In 2016 it can be challenging to make a film that stands out amongst the rest, especially with summer hits like Independence Day 2 and Suicide Squad on the movie screens. However, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) started this last weekend and with it, many films have emerged that not only stand out amongst the big Hollywood blockbusters but also ignite a fire under the viewer’s feet to make a change in the world.

Filmmakers such as Gael Garcia Burnel, Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani in the The Ivory Game, Morgan Suplock (claim to fame: Super Size Me) with his film Eagle Huntress, and Leonardo DiCaprio in Before the Flood, all do just that: educate while also seriously entertaining their audience.

When you watch The Ivory Game, a documentary produced by Red Bull’s Terra Mater, you’re on the edge of your seat for two hours and you’re glued to the screen. Any and all distractions fade away and the only thing that matters: will the elephants survive poaching or will they become extinct in Africa? When you watch Spurlock’s Rats you’re equally as drawn to the screen, but you’re also terrified, as it was created to feel like a horror film.

When discussing The Ivory Game, director Kief Davidson explained that documentaries, especially ones that are heading to Netflix like theirs is on November 4, result in immediate impact. Overnight they can reach a massive audience – Netflix alone has an audience of 82 million.

It is a topic that is very urgent and has to get out there as a documentary right now because elephants are close to extinction. So, we didn’t want to wait for a scripted, narrative film.

Kief Davidson

The Ivory Game highlights the tragic story of elephants today. In the film, the filmmakers highlight ivory traffickers, investigators, spies, the ivory trade mafia and gangs, the British Royal Family’s involvement to save the elephants and the global crisis of an animal on the verge of extinction. We swear this is not the next James Bond film – but it certainly feels like a real life one.

“When people watch our film, they’ll feel like this actually looks like fiction,” Davidson said. “We were really in the middle of an action thriller – the people we were following, embedded and undercover were all risking their lives with hidden cameras.”

Ladkani, Bernal, Spurlock, and Davidson at TIFF.
Filmmakers use movies as a way to change world © Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

When creating a documentary film of this magnitude, of this importance, that is reaching such a huge audience, it is vital to keep them entertained, wanting more and ultimately making change. Therefore, the film must be equally entertaining – after all watching a 90 minute documentary about any heartbreaking topic will not make the intended global impact.

“When I look at the story [in the beginning], I think ‘well, what’s the story, who are the people involved, and why do I care,’” Morgan Spurlock said. “And if I can find the answer to those three things early on, then you’ll find (most likely) a really great movie.”

But, all of these films from Before the Flood to The Ivory Game and Eagle Huntress bring the audience straight to the point and crack it open, like an egg.

Documentaries, the best thing they have, is they eliminate the single discourse. They open up a world of complexities that cannot be solved in a tweet, or argued in a tweet.

Gael Garcia Bernal

And The Ivory Game, just like Spurlock’s Eagle Huntress and DiCaprio’s Before the Flood, does just that. However, now the real challenge begins: now that the problem has been exposed, how do you fix the problem? Fortunately, Davidson and Ladkani have the right force behind them from Red Bull’s Terra Mater, who produced the film, Netflix who will open a gateway to 82 million people, and then Leonardo DiCaprio himself.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a great influence for this. His voice amplifies the message of the movie a million times. So it was amazing to have him on board, just as well with Jane Goodall for example who is one of our other ambassadors. Both of them together can really amplify this and get this out.

Richard Ladkani

Therefore, through high quality films and high profile names, we can reach as many people as possible and, ultimately, save the world. Filmmakers have the power to ignite the masses, especially when done right. It is vital to capitalise on the culture we have become, to capitalise on the biggest means to reach as many people to ultimately save animals and the world from demise.

“We have a visual culture and we understand the symbiotics [sic] of cinema,” Brunal said. “That’s what get’s people to talk, and we can talk to them and to get them to open up all because there was a film made.”

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