Elephants hide their tusks in foliage by moving through brush and bush. “Specifically when they know humans are watching them, they hide their tusks because they know their tusks are valuable. They’re definitely intelligent enough to figure it out,” says Head of Security at Big Life Foundation in Kenya, Africa, Craig Millar. Co-directed by
Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson, and boasting executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio, The Ivory Game follows Millar and others like him on their quest to save elephants from illegal poaching that feed into the ivory trade, and expose and bring to justice those who do it, through undercover operations, and around-the-clock vigilance.
Millar, in particular, makes very clear right away that these creatures are more than just animals; they’re living beings. Their lives matter and the fact that they are being killed for the sake of their tusks is disgusting and sad. He shows us the aftermath of such poaching in the carcasses of elephants lost to poisoned darts, bullets, and parents who died trying to protect their young.
There is more than just Millar at work here, however. The film also takes us undercover with a journalist who has set out to prove that he is on the side of good. He is the creator of a site by the name of Wildleaks, which was created to help stop the poaching of wild animals, and others who are just as vigilant and committed to the cause as Millar himself is.
The film boasts beautiful cinematography, with shots of elephants themselves and aerial views of the country that they call home scattered about the film. However, these shots are often darkly contrasted by images of deceased elephants–the carcasses sometimes left for days before being discovered,sometimes with their entire heads removed by the poachers to make for quicker escapes with their spoils–sights that even the professionals in the film have a hard time stomaching at moments, which leaves what hope that it can for the rest of us watching the film.
Though it tries to tie and weave all the different story lines together as well as it can, there often seems to be too many players in the one film, leaving a good few unanswered questions that might be answered if the film perhaps focused a bit more on quality rather than quantity. In the case of the elephants, quantity is the name of the game, but as far as a documentary about the fate of them goes, quality should have been far more important the entire film over.
Peppered with sad truths and ugly sides of the fate of the species that many either try to ignore or are simply ignorant of, The Ivory Game is anything but for the faint of heart. Although it is something that those with any sort of heart at all would find themselves unable to turn away from, informative and curiously captivating in its storytelling and thrilling musical score despite the almost haphazard way it is woven together at times.
The Ivory Game, whatever its flaws, still lets everyone know that this is one game that we cannot afford to lose.