If you are interested in animal welfare, human courage and conviction, feminine power, action adventure, and touching feel-good movies, you must run to see Lion Ark, a documentary produced by Jan Creamer and her husband Tim Phillips, founders and directors of Animal Defenders International. Not only did they produce this exciting film, but Tim directed it and they both appear as the main characters, along with the incredible 25 Bolivian lions you will come to know and love and see transform before your eyes.
Lion Ark was filmed in the moment- and yet production values are unbelievably high. The story opens at the very heart thumping moment after A.D.I. had already done much background work. They had already hired undercover investigators to get footage of the animal abuse present in the circuses in Bolivia. They had already presented this footage to the government of Bolivia, and successfully procured a ban on all wild animals in traveling circuses. That in itself would be the work of a lifetime for many animal advocates.
But no---part of the deal had to do with the fact that the government did not have the resources to actually enforce the ban. A.D.I. promised to come back and enforce it for them. This meant physically seeking out and removing these battered creatures from all their dingy little cages, and from shady characters in remote and hard-to-get-to areas of the country. It meant securing their transport to a holding area in the capitol Santa Cruz and ultimately finding suitable permanent homes for the lot, along with a way to get them there. Quite a lot for of a couple of small middle aged Brits who love animals.
But Jan and Phil, undaunted by the task, put one foot in front of the other and organized a massive campaign to make it happen. And they were there taking charge every step of the way. They rode for days at a time over bumpy dirt roads. They dealt with rough guys and angry abused lions. Imagine a small British lady yelling at a group of circus thugs and criminals, “This is not a committee!”
They had the will. They had the knowhow. Both had worked on many previous campaigns against animals in circuses in Europe as well as anti-vivisection campaigns. What they did run out of was money. Although A.D.I. is a greatly successful global animal rights organization with thousands of supporters, the enormous costs of every part of this operation drained the resources.
Miraculously, they received a phone call from the well-known celebrity and angel of animals and animal rights workers, Bob Barker. Bob had heard of their work and promised to support them.
The excitement was high when they got the call--and when they found out he was donating a million dollars, they were ecstatic. They carried on and found the beautiful Wild Animal Sanctuary, that was willing and able to make a home for the lions in Colorado. Special dens and indoor areas had to be made quickly to accommodate lions to the Colorado winter. Again funds became scarce, and once more, unbelievably kind-hearted philanthropist Bob Barker donated another million dollars.
As we follow the story, one rescue at a time, with commentary also from veterinarian Mel Richardson, you come to feel a familiarity with many of the lions. One of the many moments that bring animal lovers to tears is seeing these ill treated wild animals, kept in cages their whole lives, experience space, earth and plant life for the first time.
Bolivia is just one of many countries in South America where A.D.I. has been effective in securing bans on exotic animals in circuses. More recently bans have been obtained also in Peru and Columbia, two countries which are counting on the swift and effective enforcement from A.D.I. that they carried out in Bolivia. Plans are already in the works for Jan and Tim to go back to Peru. Their top investigator in Bolivia had his leg broken on the job. Because of the dangers, they will need to hire twice as people next time.
So it is necessary for A.D.I. to carry on its magnificent work to continue to have generous supporters. The opening screening in Los Angeles was a $500/person cocktail fundraiser and screening at the Aidikoff Studio with luscious vegan appetizers and open bar. Jan told the partygoers that every single donation no matter how small helps, and goes directly towards their upcoming campaign fo saving the Peruvian animals. There is also the potential for animal advocates adopting one or more of the lions at the sanctuary, whose lifelong care has been promised by A.D.I.
Lion Ark has been screened in several prestigious festivals and just won Best Documentary at the Sun and Sand Music and Film Festival in Buloxi, Mississippi. Dare I say it is Academy worthy? Yes.
Jan and Tim will be present answering questions at several of the screening at the Music Hall the Quad in New York.
Georja Umano is an actor and animal activist.
e Music Hall, Wilshire Blvd. Q&As with filmmakers/rescue team on 16th: ; 20th & 21st 2:20pm/7:20pm. Tickets http://bit.ly/1cUBUjA.
Nov 15th-21st: Lion Ark in NEW YORK. TWICE DAILY: 1:15pm, 6:30pm at QUAD Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Manhattan. Q&As with filmmakers/rescue team at 6:30pm on 17th & both screenings on 18th. Tickets http://bit.ly/1j9O45C