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An update on this project:

"In rural Nigeria, the magic of cinema builds support for ape conservation"

By Orji Sunday, 15 November 2021


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Background

Over the summer of 2014, At Films worked with WCS Nigeria to begin co-producing a series of short films with local communities about the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli). In the fall, we received a Flagship Species Fund Grant from Fauna & Flora International, allowing us to expand this work to Cameroon. Over the next few months, we continued the series with the help of ERuDEF

Our goal with this project was not just to create films sharing local stories, but to train a local film team to continue making movies once we left. Over three months we trained two local conservationist-journalists, Bertrand Ndimuh Shancho & Immaculate Mkong. With the help of the grant, we left them with our filmmaking equipment and a few months of support. They plan to spend the first half of 2015 making a couple more films for the series. Upon completion, the series will be screened at schools and communities across Cross River, Nigeria and South West, Cameroon.


We share photographs and tales from the filmmaking here:

Untitled photo

We hope to continue making such folk films with many other communities for many other animals and conservation situations. The next series will be made with communities in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, & Afghanistan and focus on snow leopards, Insha'Allah.

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Below are the first drafts of the Cross River Gorilla Folk Film series. They still lack a color grade, foleys, and other polish. We are now working on this, and on writing up this folk filmmaking methodology as part of At's PhD dissertation.

We shot the series in 4K. We present the drafts here in lower resolution due to the limits of uploading from West Africa. 2GB of data costs $20. The upload rate often hovers at 1 kb/sec. Africa has among the most expensive, and the slowest, Internet in the world. We are sharing drafts as soon as we can for we are still here filming. Any ideas, thoughts, and advice will be of enormous help. Please write! adam.hermans (at) colorado.edu

OBI & THE JUJU FOREST

A film by the community of Okwa II with At

This is a period piece telling a story of traditional West African ways of protecting the environment: conservation before the "whiteman". This is the first film made on the project and the first film in the series.

Okwa II is one of the three villages enclaved within Cross River National Park and thus a site of tension with conservation efforts. 

CONSERVATION EDUCATION

Trailer & Full Film

A film by the communities of Wula & Bamba with At

Wula and Bamba are two of the nine communities responsible for the Mbe Mountain community wildlife sanctuary. This film tells a modern tale about local concerns and conflict with gorilla conservation in Cross River, Nigeria.

LOUIS NKONYU

A short profile on Louis Nkonyu of WCS Nigeria, one of the great champions of Cross River gorilla conservation.

Louis was integral to the production of the first two films of the series. We made this as an acknowledgement and thank you to him.

A MESSAGE FROM OKU

A short piece from a grand but empty forest in North West Province, Cameroon. Oku no longer hosts gorillas. This will play as an interlude between the second and third films. 

CHOP GORILLA

Trailer & Full Film 

Pa Gorilla, the greatest hunter in the village, goes for some bushmeat at a tense time...

Shufai Ngoshitong, celebrity Banso filmmaker, stars, wrote the screenplay, and provided the soundtrack on a flashdrive.

A Note

Here in Cameroon Ebola surrounds us, to the West in Nigeria, to the South in DR Congo. We receive lots of frantic letters from home asking our whereabouts, when we will return, and how much longer we need to stay to complete this project. The response here is different. Folks seem almost more concerned with how the outbreak affects their image abroad than with the health risks it presents. They are tired of how the Western media continues to, in their words: "paint Africa black."

When we invited Shufai Ngoshitong to lead the third film he immediately announced that it would be about Ebola. For the past two weeks we produced his film, Ebola Madness (his title for the Cameroon release). Shufai composed the film both to fit this series and to respond to the chaos, confusion, and alarmism stemming from the outbreak. When the West talks about current affairs in Africa, the stories are almost always negative, depressing, and frightening. Here folks have a much lighter way of sharing news, be it good or bad. Ebola presents as much an opportunity for jokes and reflection on the absurdity of everyday life as it does anything else.

With this film, we want to be sure to maintain the utmost respect for those suffering or at risk but we also want to share the great levity with which many Africans respond to crises. This film is more difficult to release than to make. Local conservationists fear it may bring rumors of Ebola having reached Cameroon (some folks take movies seriously) or counter-reactions to conservation: rather than no longer eating gorillas, people may instead decide they should kill all gorillas to eliminate the animals as hosts of the virus. These are all aspects we still need to work through. Hopefully this film at least helps to provide nuance to such issues.


NZHU JIMANGEMI (The Gorilla's Wife) 

Presented in two parts while uploading from here

We adapted our story from folk stories collected in the Lebialem Highlands by Dr. Denis EtiendemIt concerns gorilla totems, love, and loss.

We shot in Bechati, one of the villages home to these stories and one of the communities responsible for the conservation of CRG at the Tofala hill site. The forest surrounding these communities has no official protection. Only local beliefs and values protect the gorillas and their habitat.

The story is told in the local language: Nyeh-mundani.

The cast in Part I are the GSS Bechati Secondary School Drama Club, led by Mr. Banda.

The cast in Part II includes:

As Asong: Nong Jacob, a former hunter, now forest guide for ERuDeF

As Nanji: Fonkem Clemantine Nanji, a student at the University of Bamenda

As Atabong: Fonkem Johnson Ajeck, her brother and Jacob's close friend

& as the Jujuman: Ketunze Sidney Ako

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HUMAN OR GORILLA?

Ndimuh Bertrand Sanchou reprises his role as Desmond, the Park Ranger, in a story on all the accidental threats to Cross River gorillas and the difficultly in addressing them. The focus now is Kagwene, the only gorilla habitat remaining in all of North West, Cameroon.

Bertrand wrote & directed the film. At Films shot & cut.

This one is funny. The bribe scene is among our favorite parts in the entire series.

Shot in 4K. Uploaded in two parts & lower resolution due to the West African Internet situation.

THE COCOA CRUSADER

Investigative journalist Regina Leke chases the story of the true, great threat to the Cross River gorilla: cocoa. As she searches for a culprit to blame she soon finds herself lost in the complex chaos of twenty-first century cash crops.

This is our political ecology approach to the challenges of Cross River gorilla conservation.

This is Part One. Part Two will be filmed in the West.

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