Moving down south...
Big news in elephant world this week, as my friend Sue on the island was quick to point out.
According to the New York Times, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Fund for Animals have brought Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus to Federal District Court for "engaging in a number of practices they call cruel, including chaining the elephants for long stretches." Apparently the blockbuster evidence against the circuses include some pretty damning video footage of mistreatment. The circuses, of course, are pissed. In moving to dismiss the case, they argued that the plaintiffs "have most of their “facts” wrong and are also wrong on the law, basing much of their case on the Endangered Species Act, which the defendants say Congress never intended to apply to animals in captivity."
For more info, read
There's also a fascinating account of the background and proceedings over at http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202427940908
And to keep up to date on the proceedings, check out http://awionline.org/legal_affairs/ringling_bros/court_documents.htm
Now I've been having a real dilemma about whether this film should primarily focus on history, advocacy, or just entertainment for the whole family. Since I'm just in the hunting/gathering stage, I don't really need to decide on anything right now, but the trial gives me pause. I love the "gentle giants" and I would love to think that I could do something to help them live happy, free-ish and contented lives. But if I go down that path, I could lose the impact of the history and the intimacy of the Rhode Island angle. It will, of course, continue to haunt me.
On Thursday night, I went to a meeting of the RI Film Collaborative Documentary Makers' group. They really got me jazzed to greenlight the interviews we need for the piece and start running with it. When I described my project there was, as usual, a great outpouring of passion from, among others, the partner of the former zoo vet over at Roger Williams Park Zoo (where Alice awaits her next date with the Pittsburgh stud) and a designer who is working on a communication device (ele-tele) for elephants. Now this whole piece has an audience, has a passionate audience, and deserves to be made and seen. I wish I had a producer- but until then...
So I'll be on the phone a lot this week setting up interviews and shooting opportunities. I can hardly wait to get started again.
Research wise, I've packed up my tent and moved south from Chepachet to Pawtucket- from Bette to Fanny. The folks over at Pawtucket, who are manning the Pawtucket History Research Center, have gathered their packets and pictures and called me to come on up any time to start digging. So, god willing and the snow don't fall, I'll be headed north early next week.