TIM GORSKI, AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER
AND ANIMAL PROTECTION ADVOCATE
SPEAKS OUT FOR ELEPHANTS
"HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT"
“people just don’t think about it, when they see an elephant balancing on their head, rolling tree trunks to clear a forest,
or serving as a novelty attraction for tourist groups… These animals are savagely abused in order to “break” them for the crowds”
YOU WILL NEVER VIEW ELEPHANTS IN THE SAME WAY AGAIN
If you have ever:
· been on an elephant ride or trek as a tourist in Asia,
· watched video of an elephant work camp (logging or forest clearing) ,
· been to a parade or a circus which features elephants that are dancing, balancing on a body part, or spinning hula hoops,
you must not miss Tim Gorski’s powerful new film, How I Became An Elephant, screened in Los Angles on December 2 at the Artivist Film Festival. You will never view elephants in the same way again.
How I Became An Elephant documents the compelling real life story of 14 year old Juliette West, in her quest to rescue a deeply injured female elephant from a forced breeding camp in Thailand, and take her to the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary to live out her days. In the process, the viewer learns the horrific back story on the captive elephant trade—how these animals – one of the most complex, intelligent, gentle and highly social species on earth, are “broken” and trained to work and entertain.
A “TAKE NO PRISONERS” ANIMAL ADVOCATE
Tim Gorski, an outspoken animal rights activist and seemingly fearless documentary filmmaker, is a man with a mission. For more than fourteen years, he has traveled the globe, filming and volunteering in humanitarian, animal, and environmental projects, often at great risk to his own life. He’s a new breed of documentary filmmaker with a “take no prisoners, tell it like it is” style. More than once, he has exposed the dark underbelly of the hunted and captive animal world.
After getting his MFA in Film from Miami University of Art and Design he worked both in film and television, taught production and animation at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, and along the way, collected 14 Best Documentary Awards, two Best Cinematography Awards, and one Telly award.
Through his not-for-profit production company, Rattle The Cage Productions, Gorski turned his camera on subjects that few other filmmakers would touch: a sole captive orca living in a tiny Miami Seaquarium enclosure, forced to perform twice a day, seven days a week (Slave to Entertainment); a voyage with (then) little known Captain Paul Watson, on the controversial Sea Shepherd (Edge of the World). Gorski’s films garnered award after award; Edge of the World ultimately inspired Animal Planet’s Whale Wars.
A PROMISE MADE
So, how did Gorski come to his passion for elephants?
It all began in 2004, on a fateful holiday on Kho Phi Phi, an island off the coast of Phuket, Thailand, where he had hoped to spend time for a well needed rest. He had just finished his Masters degree, and was exhausted physically and emotionally. As fate would have it, that holiday was not to happen.
Within days of his arrival, he found himself fighting for his life, as the Tsunami devastated the beach resort, leaving more than half the population (2400) dead. Gorski was one of the lucky ones who, against the odds, managed to survive. Working with fellow survivors on the rescue effort, he met Lek Chailert, the famed Elephant Lady of Thailand, who has devoted her life to rescuing elephants from abusive working and performing environments. She founded the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, as a sanctuary where these traumatized animals could live out their days in a peaceful, natural habitat.
Lek offered Gorski refuge, educated him about the reality of the elephant trade and the extent to which these extraordinary animals are under siege by multiple groups that exploit, torture and kill them for financial gain. Poaching cartels mutilate and kill them for their ivory; logging and trekking companies, as well as circus and parade operators, typically tear nursing calves from their mothers, chain, cage and beat them in order to “break” them for human use. Some, like the elephant rescued in the film, are used for forced breeding, and suffer broken ribs and ankles when offered repeatedly to the bull elephants.
“The fact is that people just don’t think about it, when they see an elephant balancing on their head, rolling tree trunks to clear a forest, or serving as a novelty attraction for tourist groups. People just don’t think about what it takes to get a wild animal to do these things. These animals are savagely abused in order to “break” them for the crowds.”
“When I left Thailand, I made a promise to Lek, that I would make a film about her elephants and her sanctuary. “
A PROMISE FULFILLED
In 2006 Gorski released The Elephant Lady, a short film about Lek, her rescue and rehabilitation of abused elephants, and her Elephant Nature Park. This was Part I of the promise fulfilled, but he was not finished yet.
Flash forward to 2009. Gorski was speaking at the annual Animal Rights National Conference, held in Los Angeles, California, where he met 13 year old animal activist, Juliette West. Juliette had become passionate about elephants the year before, when she joined the advocacy effort to retire the lonely and injured Los Angeles Zoo resident, Billy the elephant to the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) Sanctuary, where he could live out the rest of his days in peace and freedom.
Gorski had been looking for a way to reach out to younger people, to let them know that they could make a difference with elephant rescue and conservation. Juliette had the grace, the charm, the maturity, and the screen presence to become the star of his next film. Shortly after meeting Juliette and her Dad, Gorski met up with them in Thailand where they met Lek, toured the Elephant Nature Park and began filming.
The rest is history. How I Became An Elephant screened in Los Angeles to a riveted crowd of four hundred. A more compelling, heartwarming film experience would be hard to find.
How I Became An Elephant is Part II of Gorski's promise fulfilled. Lives are changed with each screening; and hopefully, the fate of the Asian elephants will be changed as well.
How I Became An Elephant: Produced by Tim Gorski, Jorja Fox, Juliette West and Michael Tobias. Directed by Tim Gorski. Brilliantly edited by Synthian Sharp, whose work brings clear focus to the powerful truth of the film.
This is a must see film for everyone who loves animals and especially for those who think they might at any time in the future, attend a circus, an elephant parade, take an elephant trek or endorse the use of elephants as working animals.
How I Became An Elephant (website)
Rattle The Cage Productions
The Elephant Nature Park
Juliette West, Superstar Hero
Palisidian Saves Elephant in Thailand
FACTS ABOUT ELEPHANTS
FACT: Elephants are one of the most intelligent, sensitive, highly social species of land mammal on the planet.
FACT: Elephants live in families led by a matriarch; the young bull elephants leave the family at the age of 12 or 13; the females stay together as a family unit for life. They roam in the wild up to 30 miles per day.
FACT: Elephants live up to 70 years. Their gestation period is 22 months, and calves nurse for up to two years.
FACT: Elephants care for their young; if a calf is in distress the entire family will rush to touch and caress it.
FACT: Elephants grieve for days over the bodies of their dead.
FACT: Elephants cry, play, have incredible memories, and make joyful gestures to one another!
FACT: Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES ON ELEPHANTS, SEE:
The African Elephant Conservation Trust
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