Bonobos hits Belgian theatres
by Aurore Engelen
Today sees the release of Alain Tixier’s Bonobos, a blend of documentary and fiction aimed mainly at young audiences. Tixier, a regular director for Ushuaia TV, discovered Lola Ya Bonobo while shooting for the programme. Fascinated by the bonobo sanctuary, he decided to set his debut film there.
To create empathy, he chose to focus on Béni, a typical fictional animal character, a young orphan whose mother was cruelly killed before his eyes and who is taken in by a substitute mother, Claudine André, who plays herself in the film. It is “a story of love, courage and hope”, in the words of André, who follows the process of releasing some of the sanctuary-raised bonobos back into the wild.
Self-taught André fell in love with the bonobos at the start of the civil war that shattered Congo in the early 1990s. Then a volunteer worker at Kinshasa Zoo, she was given a very young bonobo which she managed to save despite its weak physical condition.
A vocation was born: to preserve the species, through its protection but above all through a major campaign to educate urban and rural populations, with the aim of discouraging trafficking. The sanctuary isn’t just dedicated to the animal world, it is also a place that welcomes almost 30,000 children every year and raises their awareness about such issues.
When asked about the film’s resolutely optimistic tone, André quotes Oppenheimer, “I’m not an optimist, but I hold out hope that we will rediscover our common sense”. Even though she is used to film shoots, she has particularly moving memories of Bonobos, as she recalls the long hours of walking, following the wild migrating bonobos in the equatorial forest.
“We didn’t have to coach the monkeys, they coached us!” she said. For André, the mere fact the film is being watched is in itself a way of achieving her objective: “Time is running out for the bonobos. Talking about big monkeys is a way of saving them”.
Also hitting Belgian theatres today is Danis Tanovic’s latest film Circus Columbia [+see also:
interview: Danis Tanovic
film profile], co-produced by Man’s Films (also behind the director's No Man’s Land [+see also:
film profile] and Hell [+see also:
(Translated from French)
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