Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International


Posted: 18 December 2013. Updated: 7 January 2014


In October, we unveiled a new tool to create awareness about animals: Lion Ark. This feature-length documentary tells the story of the investigations, the campaigns, the new law in Bolivia that ended the use of animals in circuses and finally, the rescue of the animals. At the US premiere, actress Jorja Fox introduced the movie with, “Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the antidote to the cruelest show on earth: Lion Ark.”

Lion Ark is about a serious animal protection issue, the use of animals in circuses, but it is not like other documentaries. The focus of our story is the rescue of the animals from Bolivia’s circuses. The lions brought to the US on the Operation Lion Ark flight are the stars.

We wanted to allow the audience to understand the animals and their situation; to see beyond the differences of language and species. And the animals get to win.

The undercover investigations are covered briefly, then the lobbying and the law being voted through. A year later, time is up for the animal circuses; the Bolivian Government wants to move on enforcement and they ask ADI to assist. We set in motion ‘Operation Lion Ark’.

We had agreed with the Government that domestics would be rehomed locally; native wildlife would be returned to the wild or protected areas; exotic wild animals would be removed from Bolivia and found homes elsewhere.

The movie shows how eight circuses that defy the law are tracked down, the animals saved, and a joyous finale sees 25 lions airlifted to freedom in Colorado on one flight, the Lion Ark.

What is engaging audiences in a new way is that Lion Ark is more action adventure style than traditional documentary. This is close up and personal, right in the thick of the action; as close as you can get to these animals, understanding them and the effects of circus life.

Without hiding the suffering, it tells the stories of the animals and the audience comes out feeling that they understand the animals’ perspective.

Ultimately it is also an uplifting story about how, with determination and dedication, people can work together and change things for animals.

The film is all live action and the speakers are the people involved.

Our aim is to get Lion Ark seen by as many people as possible all over the world. We are reaching out to people who would not normally watch a documentary about animal suffering. Audiences can enjoy the movie, and leave the theater understanding the message.

Take off!

On October 2, Lion Ark premiered at the prestigious Raindance Film Festival, London. The sold out show enjoyed a special introduction by legendary British actor Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon) with celebrity supporters in attendance.

A few days later, another sell-out show of over 300 people at the US premiere was introduced by Jorja Fox at the California Film Institute’s Mill Valley Film Festival.

The following weeks Lion Ark took the film festival circuit by storm – a way of securing recognition for the film as it was selected from sometimes thousands of entrants.

Within 24 hours of the US premiere, Lion Ark was screened at San Diego Film Festival, winning Audience Choice Best Documentary, before racing back for another screening in Mill Valley. Then on to the Hawaii International Film Festival where extra screenings were added.

Next was Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, FL, where a reviewer recommended Oscar® consideration. From there to the Virginia Film Festival at Charlottesville and a glowing introduction by award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentary maker Joe Fab.

Next was Starz Denver Film Festival, four back to back sell-out screenings, a chance to catch up with the lions, and two special fundraising receptions. Then Sun & Sand Music & Film Festival, Mississippi, saw Lion Ark win the Best Documentary Jury Award.

We followed with week-long runs with daily screenings in New York and Los Angeles, beginning with a special VIP fundraising screening at the Aidikoff Screening Rooms in Beverly Hills with guest of honor Bob Barker, whose support had made the rescue mission possible.

Others in attendance at the glittering event included Corey Feldman (Stand By Me, The Lost Boys), Lynne Marie Stewart (Pee-wee’s Playhouse), Kate Linder (The Young and the Restless), K Callan (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), Lee Purcell (Stir Crazy, Valley Girl), Tonya Kay (Bold Native) and Daphne Wayans (Hollywood Exes). The Hollywood Reporter followed a glowing review by listing Lion Ark as one of 25 Best Documentary Oscar® contenders. In less than two months, Lion Ark had certainly roared to public attention!

Lion Ark will wrap up 2013 in December, at Anchorage International Film Festival, Alaska, with more festivals and other screenings scheduled for 2014.

We want to thank all of the individuals who have promoted the screenings and helped on our information tables – there are too many of you to list here, but we loved working with you and much appreciated your help! Also, the groups who have helped promote Lion Ark, including The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Hawaii, Marin, and Alaska Humane Societies, In Defense of Animals, Performing Animal Welfare Society, Hawaii Vegetarian Society, and Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. Thank you all so much.

At each of the screenings to date, ADI President Jan Creamer and Vice President Tim Phillips have held question and answer sessions after the movie and talked about the worldwide campaign against animal circuses, the campaigns in the US and where we must go next. We have also collected contributions towards the upcoming Peru rescue operation.

Media coverage has been extensive, giving us the opportunity to talk about the issue.

The film festival tour has meant that Lion Ark has now been seen by several thousand people; it has been noticed by film industry distributors who can take it to the next stage, to appear in theaters, go on to television, VOD and DVD and reach ever-wider audiences.

Get Lion Ark screened in your area

In addition to normal entertainment industry distribution, we plan to put in place a tour of key US cities where Tim and Jan will hold Q&A sessions after the movie and talk about the campaign, with the aim to build our network of people committed to end the use of animals in entertainment.

If you would like to work with us to arrange a screening of Lion Ark in your town, contact us to go on our list of potential screenings, and we’ll get back to you with the details about how this is arranged.

t: 323 935 2234

Media quotes

"warm-hearted documentary... Lion Ark proceeds with refreshing unpredictability."
– New York Times

“Lion Ark is a dynamic and courageous film highlighting the best of human nature.”
– Epoch Times

"Compelling cinema verité."
– The Hollywood Reporter

“…thoroughly rewarding”
– TV and Film Review

“heartwarming, beautiful and inspirational. It reminds you of the majestic power of documentary filmmaking and its ability to stir true emotion.”
– Shock Cinema Magazine

“ultimately an uplifting story. It’s a revealing documentary with a lot of heart.”
– Eye For Film

“A consciousness-raising milestone of a documentary”
– The Ecologist

“AMAZING! Viewers will be crying tears of joy throughout.”
– The Examiner

“an awe-inspiring journey that grips and engages”
– Britflicks

“If you enjoy movies filled with suspense, thrills, surprises, adventure and action, put Lion Ark on your must-see list. For me, Lion Ark is the feel-good movie of the year!”
– Reel Talk

"Equally thrilling, enraging and uplifting. It’ll make you want to stand up and cheer. If you’re not moved by it, you must be made of stone.”
– NYC Movie Guru

“Lion Ark is through and through entertaining…be ready for some up-tempo action-adventure of the most thrilling variety: real-life.”
– Stark Insider

© Animal Defenders International 2019