On 8 September 2018 I was fortunate to attend the premiere of Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone’s The Elephant Queen at the Toronto International Film Festival. I confess the film reduced me to tears (there were witnesses) for the sheer emotion of the story. Camera work, writing, pacing, editing and music conspire to elevate this story– about the plights and triumphs of Athena, elephant matriarch and her clan– into the highest echelons of wildlife filmmaking. If that is not sufficient praise then I raise the stakes: The Elephant Queen is a masterpiece.
I believe children everywhere— not just on predictable continents, but also in Africa and Asia– will be mesmerized by this film. I am also confident they will beg their parents to watch with them. With that, The Elephant Queen will transform even the most jaded, urbanized, and world-weary adult into an elephant advocate for life.
My friend, the great Alan Root, its executive producer, first alerted me to The Elephant Queen some eight year ago. Long before, he had lured underwater filmmakers, Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone to leave the tidal pools of Britain and join him in Africa to assist with his mostly terrestrial productions. What began as a four-month assignment turned into– for Vicky and Mark– a 30-year love affair with a continent.
About two years ago, Alan asked me to help raise funds to ensure the film’s music score matched its contents. To that end I enlisted some gallant friends to the cause. They did so with enormous generosity. Thanks to them, Vicky and Mark were able to engage the distinguished composer, Alex Heffe, thereby completing the film to Alan’s exacting standards. Our small contribution to The Elephant Queen was not merely an expression of solidarity with elephants, we also were paying tribute to Alan, protean filmmaker and legendary warrior for Africa’s wildlife. Sadly, in August 2017 this wonderful friend of ours died– too soon to see his life’s final dream fulfilled.
On the evening of September 8, after screening the film, I was with Mark, Vicky and members of their astonishing team (notably Etienne Oliff, and Lucinda Englehart) when they received news that they had successfully landed a distribution deal with Apple. In short, this titanic company will stream The Elephant Queen around the world, beginning in 2019. In addition, Mark and Vicky are planning to launch the film theatrically— to me, a critical step since I deem The Elephant Queen worthy of an Oscar.
When we celebrated Saturday night we all were certain Alan was smiling.