The Elephant in the Room examines the plight of captive elephants kept in solitary conditions. It lays bare the consequences for elephants in Europe, condemned to solitary confinement; imprisoned, isolated and ignored and explores the damaging industry of zoos in the context of elephant psychology and behaviour.
Set against the backdrop of the story of the elephant Pole Pole from the film An Elephant Called Slowly and the efforts of Born Free Foundation's founders to save her, academics, experts and activists use current cases of elephant captivity to illustrate the very real consequences of such imprisonment, and offer a potential solution to stop the suffering for these isolated and ignored animals. The film includes interviews with Dr Joyce Poole, Dr Rob Atkinson, Chris Draper, Adam Roberts, Ed Stewart and Virginia McKenna.Virginia McKenna (co-founder, Born Free Foundation)
Chris Draper (senior scientist, Born Free Foundation)
Roberta Brown (animal welfare activist)
Dr Rob Atkinson (former head of wildlife, RSPCA)
Dr Joyce Poole (elephant ethologist and biologist director, Elephant Voices)
Ed Stewart (co-founder, Performing Animal Welfare Society)
Adam Roberts (CEO, Born Free USA)
A group of University of Hertfordshire created the 13-minute documentary. It provides a look at the issue of the plight of captive elephants kept in solitary conditions through working in conjunction with wildlife charity; the Born Free Foundation. It was part funded by the Warner Bros. Creative Talent scholarship. The film aims to increase awareness about the plight of captive elephants held in isolation in zoos and circuses across Europe.
Producer and assistant editor Amanda Gardner explained that the team were inspired to make The Elephant in the Room after reading a Born Free Foundation report entitled, ‘Innocent Prisoner’, which talked about the more than 40 elephants living on their own in captivity across Europe. She said, "We decided that we would make this the main topic of our film, as we felt that it was an issue that not many people were currently aware of. One of the main challenges in making the film was trying to choose the most poignant footage to use in order to convey the correct message to the audience, but we were extremely fortunate to get the Born Free Foundation on board – we could not have made The Elephant in the Room without their advice and support."
The film is narrated by actress and Born Free Foundation Founder Virginia McKenna. Film makers (producer and assistant editor Amanda Gardner; writer, director and editor Tariq Chow; responsible for sound, music and animation Matthew Buckner, and responsible for camera and lighting Emma Peirson-Hagger) travelled abroad to California, Romania and Norway to film footage. They located, interviewed and drew upon the knowledge and experiences of specialists and experts in the animal welfare field and working within several world-renowned charities.
Time and detail was then spent on writing the narration, editing and creating the soundtrack and animation. One of the main aims of the film was attempting to convey the message regarding how elephants living in solitary confinement can be helped.
A private screening of The Elephant in the Room was held at the Warner Bros. De Lane Lea Studios in London on 9 September 2014, attended by representatives from the film industry, the national press and the animal welfare industry. This was followed by a questions and answers, and discussion with Will Travers, Adam Roberts, Virginia McKenna, Chris Draper, Dr Rob Atkinson and Tariq Chow. The film was uploaded on YouTube and Vimeo the following day. It gained internet popularity under the hashtag: #Elefilm.
Kate Snowdon of Trident Media said of The Elephant in the Room, "in scenes reminiscent of critically acclaimed documentary Blackfish, they explore the damaging industry of zoos in the context of what we now know about elephant psychology and behaviour." James Penfold of ITV said of the film, "Compelling, powerful and tenaciously edited." Alice Bhandhukravi of BBC called it "An important and moving film."