The National Geographic short follows rangers who hunt down elephant poachers.
Hillary Clinton celebrated Earth Day at the Tribeca Film Festival, as she made a surprise appearance at a panel for Kathryn Bigelow’s virtual reality documentary.
Entitled The Protectors: A Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, the short chronicles a day in the life of a ranger in Garamba National Park, managed by African Parks, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These rangers hunt down heavily militarized poachers slaughtering elephants for their ivory tusks.
“Thanks for seeing this remarkable film which brings to reality what we’re up against,” said Clinton at the doc’s world premiere on Saturday. “There’s a lot that can be done to stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand. … Part of that is protecting these rangers who are up against some of the most ruthless killers on the planet now. We need a better equipped force, and African Parks and other organizations are on the front lines.”
Clinton recounted her anti-poaching work while serving as secretary of state under president Barack Obama. “I’m proud we passed a near total ban of ivory and proud that the Chinese made a very important announcement last year on ivory [trade],” she said. “Large mammals like elephants have a large role to play both in reality and in our imaginations. China had been the number one market, but the U.S. is the second biggest market for illegal ivory.”
Clinton encouraged attendees to donate to outfitaranger.org — “You can help to buy a ranger a better vest, decent shoes to have a better chance,” she said — and shared her hope that other countries will step in to help end the ivory war. “It’s hard for the U.S. itself to be involved, but instead to rally other forces within the continent is possible.”
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Bigelow and Imraan Ismail co-created the eight-minute project with National Geographic, Here Be Dragons, Annapurna Pictures and African Parks. The Oscar-winning director began working on The Protectors after her 2014 animated short The Last Days of Ivory.
“There’s an intersection between poaching and terrorism,” said the Zero Dark Thirty helmer. “The rangers are doing this extraordinarily heroic job of putting their lives on the line every single day in order to protect these elephants and save them from extinction. Sometimes, sadly, they pay the ultimate price.”
The project also marks Bigelow’s virtual reality debut. “I thought shooting a virtual reality would be a great opportunity being in DR Congo, moving within the brush with these gentleman who are moving through the jungle, insects, animals and also the poachers who are very well armed,” she explained. “It’s no joke out there.”
During the panel — which also included African Parks’ Andrea Heydlauf and National Geographic’s Rachel Webber — Clinton made a shoutout to the Science March which took place earlier that day in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and other locations. The march was organized as a response to Donald Trump’s various policies, such as funding cuts for the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It is Earth Day and we are marching on behalf of science, and part of science is understanding the intricate relationships we share with those on this planet,” said Clinton to applause on the Spring Studios stage.