It’s won 17 awards across the globe and been selected for 26 film festivals. The South African documentary, Stroop: Journey into the Rhino Horn War, has become the film to watch on rhino poaching.
Lauded for showing the rhino horn supply chain from the poaching stage to where the horn is purchased, it was the result of two first-time film makers embedding themselves on the frontlines of the poaching crisis where they were given exclusive access to the unfolding war.
The two women, Susan Scott and Bonné de Bod, put aside six months for the project, but found themselves so immersed in the film that they emerged from their odyssey only four years later.
Scott is elated about the recognition the film has received. “I think the thing for us was just to get officially selected at festivals, so the fact that the film was not only selected at all these US and European festivals but went on to win all these awards was really something we weren’t prepared for – but were incredibly grateful for,” she tells City Press.
“We thought that everyone would be concerned with air or plastic pollution. The last thing we thought was that they cared about rhinos. It was really eye-opening for us to see that they do care.”
The important thing about a documentary like this is that it made an impact, however small. Scott says she thinks the film has been viewed by key role players and is driving conversation and change.
“After our South African screening for the press and role players in the rhino industry, it was great seeing members of the Hawks, game rangers, national prosecutors, private rhino owners and orphan rhino rehabilitators huddled together and chatting and exchanging numbers. Many people felt that the film had really opened their eyes in terms of how high the demand for ivory is.”
A key aspect was reaching an Asian audience, as this is where many rhino horn buyers are.
“In Hong Kong their judiciary viewed the film. They’re working with an NGO called Reporters Released who were saying that there’s got to be stricter enforcement of the wildlife trafficking crimes.
“The traffickers pass through Hong Kong and it’s viewed very much as a gentleman’s crime because there’s no loss of life, so the attitude is just to give them a slap on the wrist. Some of the Chinese audience said afterwards that the cries of the rhino orphans after losing their mothers was very disturbing for a lot of the judiciary.”
Other important bodies who have seen the film include the Transnational Global Initiative against Organised Crime and various African governmental environment and tourism departments.
With the fight against rhino poaching sometimes seeming like a losing battle, Scott says that many people talk about “rhino fatigue” and being tired of hearing about rhinos. Many have resigned themselves to the fact that our rhinos will go extinct.
But there is hope.
“It was very difficult making the film – emotional and incredibly draining ... But the one thing that got us through it was seeing these incredible South Africans on the ground – the rangers, the vets, the rehabilitators. They’re incredible citizens. That’s what drove us, to know that ordinary South Africans would see these incredible people.”
Stroop: Journey into the Rhino Horn War is screening at the 21st Encounters SA International Documentary Festival at the Rosebank Cinema Noveuau on June 9 at 5pm. Tickets available at encounters.co.za