We received a public tweet from a fellow elephant lover today that I felt deserved a public response. I have replied to her directly, but I think it’s a worthy conversation for the Elephant Community at large, so I have posted it here as an open letter. We look forward to hearing your comments and if you can join us at the Little Rock Film Festival on either May 30th or June 1st, please give us an “Ele-Friend” shout out.
I saw your tweet and I just want to clarify that the Little Rock Film Festival selected “The Eyes of Thailand” and they worked with the Little Rock Zoo to host one of two screenings of “The Eyes of Thailand” during the festival.
As a filmmaker, one of my jobs is to ensure that the film reaches the broadest audience possible. Hence, this is why we have submitted to several film festivals around the United States and the world. Once they select us, they decide our screening locations and times, and if they want to partner with sponsors or partners for screenings.
I personally know that the zoos vs. sanctuaries debate is ripe with “elephant politics”, enough to fill several Elephant Summits, however one of the mission’s of the “The Eyes of Thailand” film is to start the much needed conversations about protecting Asian elephants in their native countries. This, of course, spills over into how Asian elephants are treated in their non-native countries, but that is a secondary conversation because the film is neither pro-zoo or anti-zoo. It is pro-Thai Asian Elephants and pro-FAE’s Elephant Hospital.
On a side note, as activists, I think it is dangerous if we only speak to the people that are already on our side because we won’t make very much progress that way. I believe we need to speak with the unenlightened and the neutral people, too, if we want to make real, significant changes.
At the end of the day, though, “The Eyes of Thailand” is the courageous story about one woman’s quest to help two elephant land mine survivors walk again. I hope it speaks to animal lovers, humanitarians, and environmentalists, as well as the general public, but it is a story and a conversation-starter.
Thank you for starting this conversation about how Asian elephants are treated in the U.S. and I hope we can all work together to improve their lives, no matter where the Asian elephants live.
Director/Producer, “The Eyes of Thailand”