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The African Queen

Five Flicks With Elephants


Did you know that September 22, is National Elephant Appreciation Day?!?  Neither did I.  But now that we do know, I think we can all agree that it’s an excellent day to take a day to appreciate these gentle giants with one of the following films.

Dumbo (1941)  The fourth animated Disney film based on the children’s story by Helen Aberson revolves around Jumbo Jr. a young elephant cruelly nicknamed “Dumbo” by his peers for his big ears. But it turns out these ears can also help him fly!  Even despite the advent of WWII, Dumbo was still the most financially successful Disney film of the 40’s, and today holds a 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and in 2011 was named one of ‘The 25 All-TIME Best Animated Films” by Time Magazine. It’s titular character has also become an internationally recognized icon.

White Hunter Black Heart (1990) Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, the film is based on the Peter Viertel novel of the same name; which was in turn a thinly disguised account of Viertel’s experiences working on the 1951 film The African Queen. Filmmaker John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) travels to Africa in the early fifties for a shoot bringing along young scriptwriter Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey of Wyatt Earp and The Seventh Scroll).  But once on location, Wilson neglects film preparations for his new obsession with hunting down a big tusked elephant -a goal he even acknowledges is sinful. It has an 88 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and has been described as Eastwood’s best work before Unforgiven.  

Born to be Wild (2011) David Lickley directed this nature documentary short about orphaned orangutans and elephants and the people who rescue them. It has a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie’s heart-warming story and nature footage that is both charming and really, really cute.

The Eyes of Thailand (2012) Windy Borman directed and produced this documentary about Soraida Solwawa who opened the world’s first Elephant Hospital. The Friends of Asian Elephants Hospital in Lampang, Thailand took in two elephant landmine survivors Motala and baby Mosha who had lost their legs. Solwawa and her team developed the first elephant prosthesis to help them walk again.  Besides celebrating elephant’s the film’s also a cautionary tale about landmines and won the Ace Documentary Grant.

When Elephants Were Young (2015) This French-Canadian documentary was directed by World Elephant Day (a separate holiday from Elephant Appreciation Day) co-founder Patricia Sims and narrated by Will Shatner. Twenty six year old Wok in Thailand has been caring for his elephant Nong Mai since she was three. Nong Mai was one of thirty five captive elephants in Wok’s village as part of a (now rapidly fading), tradition of elephant keeping. The family’s business is street begging with Nong Mai in Bangkok. The film follows how the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation offers to buy Nong Mai to reintroduce her to the wild. The film had its international premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival where it won Best Documentary Feature.

Top photo: Bigstock