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FRANÇAIS

a film

by

Klaus Reisinger & Frédérique Lengaigne

synopsis trailers festivals behind the scenes photos

 

LIFE SIZE MEMORIES "ELEPHANTS IN FRAMES"

2012 - documentary - 118 min.

directed by Klaus Reisinger & Frédérique Lengaigne


52 min TV version, HD, 16/9 PAL
link to film website

Distributed by Journeyman Pictures Two former photojournalists bring a large format camera to South-East Asia to portray Asian elephants living in captivity and to record their biographies.
Ten years earlier, in 1999, they had spent months in a logging camp in a mountain range of western Burma. They go back to the same camp to find out whether the elephants they had filmed back in 1999 would still be there.
After Burma, the photographers travel in three other Asian countries to determine how different cultures influence the fate of the animals and their future.
The elephant memories become palpable while the life-size photographs reveal the individuals behind the collective and shapeless face of the species.

Synopsis

We were war photographers, witnesses of an endless succession of conflicts, civil wars, disasters and misery. Every photographer is attracted to beauty and for us, came a time when we could only find beauty in nature. We had first encountered the elephants in Burma and, in 1999, we had made our first documentary film about timber elephants.

What is it about elephants that brings so much fascination? Elephants are a myth and a child's dream at the same time.
Details of the animals' lives were kept in little books by the handlers: biographies of elephants dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
With a lifespan of more or less seventy years, elephants are very close to humans. Childhood, puberty, maturity, we share the same time schedule. The bare skin on their faces seems to reveal their moods and their temperaments.
We lived months with the elephants and it was a privilege. Soon we were able to recognize their features and their characters. Each one had a different face. From mere representatives of their species, we came to consider them as individuals...then persons.

How could we share these emotions with others? By giving them the chance of the experience...
For that, we needed high-resolution negatives to make one-to-one scale prints so people could stand at the foot of a life-sized elephant portrait and see each tiny hair, each pore of the skin and each wrinkle without artifact.
If people could differentiate animals one from the other, they would eventually acknowledge them as individuals and, at last, feel empathy.

a reference...At the beginning of the 20th century, Edward S. Curtis, an American photographer traveled across the United States to produce a series of portraits of Native American Indians. Curtis' goal was not just to photograph, but to document, as much Indian traditional life as possible before it disappeared. The magic portraits are the only testimony of the Indians' past grandeur.
It was with Curtis’ photographs in mind that we set out on our journey through South-East Asia. Our camera, although modern, resembles the wooden cameras that were created in the 1880s. It uses film holder plates and the photographer covers his head with a black cloth while framing the subject. The depth of field is very narrow and the subject cannot move...impossible to do with elephants?


Elephants' past
Our quest began at the source, in Burma, where domesticated elephants still live and work in the forests the way they have been doing for centuries.

we became the memories of the elephants...
Considering the travel restrictions inside the country, we were extremely lucky to be allowed back to the location of our first documentary. We met again the elephants we had known ten years earlier. Most of them were still alive and working and we could find out what had happened to individuals in this lapse of time. We filmed a ten-year-old youngster whose birth we had witnessed in 1999 and his little brother who was born in the meantime. It was a unique opportunity to show true flashbacks in the film instead of mere reconstitutions.
Nan Cho, a female, posed in front of the camera. There was a baby at her side and they stood in front of a river. She was born in 1947. At the end of the photo shoot, they turned around and walked away.

We witnessed the capture of wild elephants from the forest and the unbearably violent training of young calves. In both events, we found extreme human brutality. But we also found that the ancient sophisticated techniques used by the catchers or the trainers are in themselves an acknowledgment of the intelligence of their victims.
it was like a war zone...
Burmese elephant handlers say that the purpose of training is to break the spirit of the animal. The sentence itself sounds like recognition of their soul.

Burma is at a turning point in its history and soon the world the elephants have known will be changing dramatically. Like in the rest of South-East Asia, logging will be forbidden eventually and captive elephants will face an uncertain future. We traveled to three other countries - Thailand, India and Sri Lanka - to find out how different cultures influence the fate of the animals and their future.

From the past in Burma to the future in Thailand...like in a time machine...
Thailand has put its national emblem in stables. Most Thai elephants are born in captivity and the jungle disappeared from their memories long ago. Here, people believe that elephants will disappear from the wild and that their only chance of survival lies in captivity. Thailand breeds elephants with all the contradictions inherent to a modern human society: profit and efficiency, boredom and relative safety. However, tourism together with progress brought a new element to the elephants' lives: compassion and this new empathy shed light on the fates of individuals.

Missing the forest.
We choose to visit Kerala at the time of the biggest elephant festival of all, the Thrissur Pooram where bulls stand like statues for hours in the middle of a crowd of hundreds of thousands of screaming men. Another type of violence comes from the prospect of danger.
Kerala collects male elephants as status symbols: the bigger, the more dangerous animals potentially are, the more respected and powerful will be their owners.

back to the wild to find the original...
Sri Lanka seems to propose another option: the abolition of slavery pure and simple; the end of domestication. There are a few remaining captive elephants here and soon they will be counted on the fingers of one hand. Elephants are wild animals and should be in national parks. People do not accept elephants in chains anymore, thinking that one day we will wonder how we could possibly inflict such predicaments to elephants. Sri Lanka is a small island and conflicts with farmers are an ongoing battle.
Is there potentially enough space left to send the elephants back to the forest?
... the future is uncertain.

The key is the forest.
"As long as there will be the forest, the elephants will be there."

We gathered a collection of life size portraits - instant memories of 200 elephants - a herd of individual beings who can speak for themselves.

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Credits

producer(s)

Klaus Reisinger & Frédérique Lengaigne
R2 Films

co-producer

AUSTRIAN FILM INSTITUTE
COMPASS FILMS
ORF
ZDF/ARTE
NGTI

director

Klaus Reisinger & Frédérique Lengaigne

cinematographer

Klaus Reisinger

sound recordist

Frédérique Lengaigne

editor

Klaus Reisinger

author

Frédérique Lengaigne & Klaus Reisinger

composer

Helmut Hödl

second camera

Frédérique Lengaigne

executive producer(s)

Helmut Reisinger

field production co-ordinator

U Khin Maung Gyi
Viju Kaimal
Sunil Rambukpotha

translator

Helmut Reisinger

researchist

Melissa Matchett
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DIGITAL MOTION ARCHIVES

sound editor

Frédérique Lengaigne

sound mixer

Klaus Reisinger

on-line editor

Klaus Reisinger

colorist

Klaus Reisinger

stock footage

COMPASS FILMS
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DIGITAL MOTION
ARCHIVES

voices

Frédérique Lengaigne (ENG. & FR)
Régine Feldgen (GER)
Matthew Geczy (for 52 min.)

additional music

Asja Valcic Cello
Lorenz Raab trumpet
Birgit Ramsi flute
Wolfgang Kornberger bass clarinet
Helmut Hödl clarinet
Marie Vigilante piano
Gerti Kaufmann violin
Yoo Huiseung violin
Cynthia Liao viola

facilities

Listo Video
Wolfgang Reithofer
Tonwerk München
Eckart Goebel
Foto Leutner Vienna
Foto Fayer Vienna
Picto Bastille Paris

still photographer

Frédérique Lengaigne

special thanks

Myanmar Timber Entreprise MTE
Myanmar Ministry of Forestry
Htoo Foundation
U Ye Min Oo
vet U Saw Win
mahout U Kyaw Myint
mahout U Myint Aung
vet U Myo Min Aung
U Aung Myo Chit
Hervé Fléjo
Thuzar Fléjo
Gulliver Travels
U Pha Kwe
Daw Ma Gyi
Saw Ke Tu
Richard Lair
Maetaman Elephant Camp
Paitoon Sarnsukudompai
Khun Pai Tun
Anchalee Kalmapijit
Friends of the Asian Elephants FAE hospital in Lampang
Soraida Salwala
Dr. Preecha Phuangkum
Protheses Foundation of H.R.H. the Princess Mother
Elephantstay in Ayutthaya
Ewa Narkiewicz
Michelle Reedy
Paul
Royal Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya
Laithongrien Meepan
Toy
Pipat Salangam
Peng
Viju Kaimal
Dr. K. Chandrashekhara Panicker
Elephant Protection Society Thrissur
Punnathur Kotta Elephant Sanctuary of Guruvayur temple
Madhu Menon
Gopu Nandilath
Dr. K. Radhakrishna Kaimal
Paramekkavu Temple
Thiruvambadi Temple
Nibu
Galaxy Circus
Sunel Rambukpotha
Millennium Elephant Foundation Kegalle
Mrs. Carminie Samarasinghe
Ruwan
Dr. Ashoka Dangolla University Peradeniya
CCR (Center for Conservation and Research)
Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando
Dr. Jennifer Pastorini
Bandara Nishanta
H. K. Janaka
Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust
Jayantha Jayewardene
Ajith, Mahout of Wasana
Chandana, Mahout of Rani
Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project
David Ferris
Smithsonian National Zoo
Aaron Smith
Peter Leimgruber
Damien Dorsaz
Tiffany Cherix
Helmut Reisinger
Susi
Simone Hödl
Christine & Fred Karner in Korfu
Romain Gary

TO THE ELEPHANTS.

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Cast

SAW WAY LIN

NAN CHO

MYO WIN MAY

THAN MYA NAING (MALEKO)

NGWE THEIN AUNG

AYE SEIN MA

THEIN SEIN GYI

SHWE TUT NII

AYE SOE

THAN MYO THAW

THAN MYO THAW

MAE BUN CHAN

EREWAN

DANTE

MOTALA

MOSHA

NATHONG

NONG AE

MONG KON AIYARAT

POCKET

LAKSHMI

PARAMEKKAVU RAJENDRAN

SREE DHARAN

JUNIOR VISHNU

NANDILATH PADMANABHAN

PARANNUR NANDAN

SAPUMALI

RANI

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Festivals

ECOFALANTE ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014
FLAGSTAFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
ANIMAL FILM FESTIVAL IN SUNCHEON 2013
GRAN PARADISO FILM FESTIVAL 2013 in Cogne, Italy
GREEN SCREEN WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
HORIZONTE ZINGST 2013
JAPAN WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
REEL EARTH ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
NEW ZEALAND 2013
MADEIRA FILM FESTIVAL 2013
39. FILMWOCHENENDE WÜRZBURG 2013
MATSALU FILM FESTIVAL 2012 ESTONIA
NATURVISION 2012 LUDWIGSBURG
MONTANA CINE INTL FILM FESTIVAL
FINALIST - 35TH IWFF INTL WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL
DC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL March 2012 USA
TALES OF PLANET EARTH USA

PRESS ARTICLES

FILMWOCHENENDE

NEWS MAY 2012

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC JULY 2012

TALES FR PLANET EARTH

DC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL

NATURVISION FILM FESTIVAL

MATSALU FILM FESTIVAL

MADEIRA FILM FESTIVAL

LIFE SIZE MEMORIES SITE

PHOTOS

CENTER CONSERVATION RESEARCH SRI LANKA

ELEPHANTSTAY THAILAND

GULLIVER TRAVELS BURMA

MILLENNIUM SRI LANKA

SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOO WASHINGTON

REEL EARTH FILM FESTIVAL

JAPAN WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL

HORIZONTE ZINGST UMWELTFOTOFESTIVAL

GREEN SCREEN FILM FESTIVAL

GRAN PARADISO FILM FESTIVAL

ANFFIS KOREA

FLAGSTAFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL

ECOFALANTE ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014

JOURNEYMAN PICTURES

Broadcasts

April 13, 2014 at 23H05 on ORF2
Sept. 19, 2012 at SCHÖNBRUNN ZOO in Vienna at 07:15 pm
CINEMA PREMIERE in VIENNA - AUSTRIA - MAI 25 2012

Awards

PRE-SELECTION ECOFALANTE ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014
MARISA CACCIALANZA TECHNICAL JURY AWARD OF THE XVII GRAN PARADISO FILM FESTIVAL 2013
HISTORICAL ENCOURAGEMENT AWARD JAPAN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION FLAGSTAFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION ANFFIS KOREA 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION GRAN PARADISO 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION GREEN SCREEN WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION JAPAN WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION REEL EARTH 2013
OFFICIAL SELECTION INTERNATIONALES FILMWOCHENENDE WÜRZBURG
OFFICAL SELECTION MADEIRA FILM FESTIVAL
BEST PHOTOGRAPHY AWARD MATSALU FILM FESTIVAL 2012 ESTONIA
GRAND PRIX NATURVISION 2012 LUDWIGSBURG
FINALIST 35TH IWFF - INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE FILM FESTIVAL
DC ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012 - OFFICIAL SELECTION
OFFICIAL SELECTION TALES OF PLANET EARTH 2012
BEST OF CATEGORY ANIMAL ISSUES - MONTANA CINE 2011
MERIT AWARD CINEMATOGRAPHY - MONTANA CINE 2011
MERIT AWARD HUMAN WILDLIFE INTERACTION - MONTANA CINE 2011

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