SPENCER AUSTIN – PRODUCER/DIRECTOR/EDITOR
In 2011, I moved to South Africa - to live in the bush and train to become a safari field guide. I was useless at it. I am not to be taken seriously. But during the course of this intensive learning experience, not only did the savannah dig its claws into me (quite literally on occasions), I saw the growing impact of poaching in the area. Every week when we went into the local town Hoedspruit, we'd see more newspaper headlines about poaching incidents, local organisations appealing for help, radio reports of yet more butchered rhinos being found on the surrounding estates. The reaction of the community went from outrage to resignation to one of bleak despondency.
So, when I came back to the UK to begin an MA in Wildlife Filmmaking, I decided that I wanted to use my final assignment as a way of reflecting the situation. I found, however that there wasn't a shortage of films out there flashing blood, guts and the faces of rhinos sliced off in the name of Asian medicine. But what seemed lacking was a real sense of how this situation can be changed. I set about making a film that at least reflected some of the possible solutions; to try and get the audience thinking about what's going on in Southern Africa.
So off we went – just myself and course colleague Turan Holland and a camera, to seek rhinos and those that love them. We shot for one month around the Hoedspruit, Kruger Park, Pilanesberg, Waterberg and North West Territory areas, often with the camera precariously balanced on a beanbag hanging out of our rented Cheverolet Spark Lite (the smallest car in the world). Five days in the Kruger turned up two rhinos. The car broke our bums. We ate tins of curry heated on a log fire and camped in a 1.5 person tent. It was tough going. We wept, hourly.
Since then, more films have emerged that offer hints towards solutions, but at least I hope 'We Are Rhino' can contribute to or maybe, in some, spark debate - and a growing leaning towards acting rather than just reeling from the horror and then leaving it to others to sort out.
I'm not going to talk about the realities and facts and figures here – others do that much better than me, so please see the links section should you wish to find out more.