MILKING THE RHINO (David E.Simpson, 2008): USA

Reviewed by Mimi Shiffman. Viewed at the 2009 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

This film is a poster child for the value of a great title. Having watched “miles” of nature films since a small child, it takes an irresistible “hook” to be drawn into the theatre for yet another one. Not only was the title a great attraction, the in-person introduction by (writer, producer, director, and editor) David E.Simpson, explaining how he and his crew simply turned the camera around 180 degrees to see the people who have always been there, was downright intriguing.

Shot in Kenya and Namibia, the camera immediately draws us in with tighter framing of faces and a continuing pictorial of refreshingly original shots of animals, people, and landscapes. The filmmaker’s decision to work directly with the tribal people of the Masai in Kenya and the Himba in Namibia lends an insider’s view of their conservation work and their innovative approaches to creating and linking “conservancy units”.

As these ancient people struggle to live in this modern age with their cherished traditions, a native African, Ian Craig of Lewa Ranch, reveals the “myth of wild Africa”. For the first time the indigenous people (who have been right there with their livestock since pre-colonial times) are being given legal rights to the wildlife.

And yes, there are highly entertaining scenes with rhinos, especially one famous black rhino baby, who is now “giving back to his country”. This film is well worth seeing if just for the assurance that conservation is alive and well by the Africans themselves.

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