Albuquerque Journal

SFIFF 2018 - Documentary Explores Elephant's Importance to Africa 

A documentary has the potential to be powerful.

In the case of "Walking Thunder: Ode to the African Elephant," it's just that.

The film spans more than a decade, as a family of photographers explores the importance of the elephant to the people of Africa, the wildlife and the larger world in this critical time.

It is directed by Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson, both based in Santa Fe.

The documentary will screen as part of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival on Friday, Oct. 19.

"Documentaries are real-time experiences," Christo says. "They are not noticed as much, and it's always great when we get to share this film."

The film is mild-mannered, yet the message is gigantic.

Wilkinson says the film came together because she and Christo were originally photographers.

"We were chronicling how the land was changing," Wilkinson says. "You can measure it through plants and the wildlife that you can see. In our time in Africa, you can see what makes the area dynamic. We discovered that there is a common thread of connection to elephants. We began to hear practical concerns from the government that they were beginning to disappear, due in big part to hunting."

Wilkinson says documentaries usually start with a story you know and then are filmed to fit the story.

Or you can wait for the story to emerge, she says.

"Our film is one that came out of the editing process," she says. "We started out with a desire to make a film exclusively about elephants and indigenous people. We started actively shooting the film, and it is a very personal idea to us. Having those years' worth of footage, the editing process was long and grueling."

Christo says his time in Africa changed him.

"It's a wonderful landscape, and if we don't work to save it, then there's no hope for conservation," Christo says. "It's a poetic journey, and all of these things are happening across the board. The film gives a glimpse of a larger concern for life on earth."

By Adrian Gomez

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