Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared at the world premiere of the National Geographic Documentary Films’ VR short The Protector’s: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, the first VR short from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and Emmy-nominee Imraan Ismail.
Produced by Here Be Dragons, The Protectors was filmed deep in the Congo and shot in virtual reality to immerse viewers in the dangerous reality of those who risk their lives to protect elephants from poachers slaughtering the animals for their ivory tusks.
Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal introduced the special event and then the panel discussion followed the screening of The Protector’s: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, with 250 audience members donning VR headsets simultaneously to experience the film together.
Photo credit: National Geographic/Anthony Behar
Highlight of comments said during the panel:
Hillary Rodham Clinton
- · “Here it is Earth Day and we are marching on behalf of science. Part of science is understanding the intricate relationships we share with all those who are on this planet and in particular large mammals like elephants.”
- · “It’s really important for everyone here to know that there is something you can do. You can support organizations like African Parks and others.”
- · “I’m very proud that under President Obama, the United States passed a near federal ban on the transportation and interstate trafficking of ivory in our own country.”
- · “As critical as this problem is, there have been a lot of good effort made at a local, regional, national and now international level to try to address it.”
- · “We [the Obama administration] had 3 overriding goals – stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand…and part of that is protecting these rangers.”
Kathryn Bigelow, Co-Director, The Protectors
- · “I realized that there was an intersection between poaching and terrorism, which led me to this project.”
- · “These rangers are doing an extraordinarily heroic job of putting their life on the line every single day in order to protect these elephants and save them from extinction, and sometimes sadly they pay the ultimate price.”
- · “The biggest challenge that Imraan and I looked at when making this piece was how to activate the audience. How do you take it from being informative one step further and engage the viewer with a call to action.”
- · “We used VR to put people into a very active relationship with the subject.”
Imraan Ismail, Co-Director, The Protectors
- · “The challenges, threats, dangers the rangers are facing each day are almost insurmountable. They’re outmanned outgunned and they’re putting themselves in the line of fire. As long as there are elephants, these rangers will just keep on doing it.”
Rachel Webber, EVP of Digital Product for National Geographic
- · “With this specific piece, we can all rally around this specific mission.”
- · “VR enables people to feel like they’re on the ground with these rangers. They become a part of the mission, a part of conservation. We need to continue pushing the boundaries of taking people on that conservation journey.”
Andrea Heydlauff, Chief Marketing Officer of African Parks
- · “We’ve been holding the front line since 2015. This is ground zero in the poaching war.”
- · “What these rangers are doing is providing connection for communities surrounding the parks. These are their families and friends and they see the direct benefit of what they are doing.”
- · “Good news here is only the absence of bad news.”
More than 30,000 African elephants die each year at the hands of poachers, and despite the global outcry over the killings, trafficking continues. The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes is a call to action to help African Parks and to end the Ivory War. From National Geographic Documentary Films, the VR short chronicles a day in the life of a ranger in Garamba National Park, managed by the conservation non-profit African Parks, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These rangers often serve as the last line of defense in a race against extinction at the hands of poachers slaughtering elephants for their ivory tusks, facing constant danger and even the risk of death at the service of these sentient, noble creatures. The rangers of Garamba National Park are truly the unsung heroes in this race against time.
The Protectors debuted at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival Saturday night (Earth Day) in New York City. Following the VR short, Hillary Rodham Clinton joined a panel discussion moderated by Kathryn Bigelow. As Secretary of State, Clinton worked to bring the issue of global wildlife trafficking out of obscurity. Her family’s foundation has launched an initiative to combat elephant poaching.
Co-director Ismail also participated on the panel, along with Rachel Webber, EVP of Digital Product for National Geographic and Andrea Heydlauff, chief marketing officer of African Parks.
Elephant Poaching Statistics:
– An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts. (Source)
– As of 2016, there were still more African elephants being killed for ivory than are being born. (Source)
– It’s estimated only about 400,000 African elephants are remaining today. (Source)
– Some experts believe that at this current rate of poaching, elephants could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. (Source)