Trophy is a startling exploration of the evolving relationship between big-game hunting and wildlife conservation that will leave you debating what is right, what is wrong and what is necessary in order to save the great species of the world from extinction.
An Excellent Portrayal of the Emotional Issue of Big Game Hunting
Trophy was well-received at the SXSW Film Festival last night. It presents a surprisingly nuanced picture of the complexity of a subject that is usually viewed through memes and brief clips about the killing of Cecil the Lion. The filmmakers provide a nuanced and complicated explanation of the issues around the economics and conservation of wild game. They spent a long time filming and interviewing some of the participants in this complex industry. They clearly show those who are there simply to assuage their egos – and usually their masculinity – by killing lions and rhinos. They show those who seek to profit off of commodify these beautiful animals. But they also show those who are trying to save these animals and sometimes are doing so in surprising ways. The positive effects on the local African economy are also worth observing. I was particularly intrigued by John Hume who has preserved hundreds of rhinos, but is trying to sell the rhino horns (which are removed from living animals) in order to support his rhino preserve. Ironically, the laws that are designed to save the rhinos by banning the sale of the horns are creating a black market and may be endangering them.
I can't say that I came away more sympathetic to the big game hunters who seem to be killing wild beasts more for their own pleasure than to help conserve them. Human beings need to live in greater harmony with these great animals rather than kill them for sport. It isn't sporting and it isn't fair competition. I don't see how the benefits outweigh the costs. Living creatures shouldn't be murdered as commodities of the market.
The filmmakers exploration is commendable. They are trying to educate the public on a complex issue. The African filming in South Africa and elsewhere is beautiful. I did find that it ran a little long and probably needs to be shortened from its current 108 minutes. The film is scheduled to run on CNN and I hope that it gets a wide audience which begins to help those on either side of a polarized issue begin to re-examine the complexity of the situation so that we can work to better preserve these animals and regulate their environment and protect them from poachers and others seeking to exploit them for ego and profit.
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