Lion Ark is a fantastic film about the struggle of trying to abolish animals in circuses in Bolivia. The documentary grabs you by the shirt and refuses to let you go. Lion Ark is directed by Tim Phillips, co-founder or Animal Defense International, an organization dedicated to eradicating the use of animals in circuses. They have been successful in the past and what Lion Ark accomplishes is the journey they must go through to ensure that wild animals are taken care of. The movie is powerful, strong and will have you on the edge of your seat as you witness these lions go through some of the roughest ordeals ever captured on film. If you get a chance to see this at a festival, you definitely should. I sat down and spoke with director Tim Phillips about the intensity of the events depicted on film, his directing process, and whether or not the film would win an Oscar©.
I didn’t have the luxury of meeting Phillips face to face but I was honored with speaking with him over the phone. At first I asked how he was doing since the original scheduled interview had to be postponed due to his being at festivals. The film is getting some traction and he’s been traveling promoting it at festivals. He told me he was excited that the film won best documentary at the Sun and Sand film festival in Mississippi.
Because of the strong imagery used in the beginning of the film, I asked Phillips if they had to remove certain scenes to make the journey easier to trek through. “It’s an integral part of the story otherwise you can’t comprehend why these things are done,” said Phillips.
The film doesn’t shy away from strong footage of animal abuse; images of lions getting punched, elephants getting kicked, and even a monkey getting bit on the head, Lion Ark determines to make you want to root for the animals to make “a clear progression from those cages.” He spoke about the production that went into making the film. “[The crew and I] work in a very start to finish way. We will do groundbreaking work on a campaign such as in South America, before the campaign was even launched [we] put a team of undercover field officers inside the South American circus industry for almost two years and they gathered the evidence…with hidden cameras.” Phillips, along with his wife Jan Creamer, heads the campaign to save a group of lions from a Bolivian traveling circus. Phillips and Creamer go through some tribulations while attempting to save the lions including that one almost died before making it to a safe environment. However, despite being an intense moment on film, Phillips spoke about his toughest encounters in real life. He spoke of an event where he was once in a violence altercation with the peoples of The Republic of Congo. Take a listen to the full interview. It’s about forty minutes long and it contains some interesting information regarding the filmmaking process.
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