TIFF Docs

The Ivory Game

Kief Davidson, Richard Ladkani

Ivory 01

Wildlife activists and investigators put their lives on the line to battle the illegal African ivory trade, in this suspenseful on-the-ground documentary.

Elephants are among the world's most majestic creatures. But the lucrative ivory trade has caused rampant poaching. If it doesn't stop, the species could be extinct within our lifetimes. The Ivory Game chronicles the battle to save elephants. As suspenseful as any thriller, it follows investigators who risk their own lives, battling armed poachers in the African bush and going undercover to catch black marketeers in Asia. The courage of these elephant advocates makes for a pulse-racing adventure with real-life urgency.

Filmmakers Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani equip themselves with a sophisticated visual tool kit, ranging from sweeping aerial photography to surveillance by hidden camera. They interweave the stories of multiple characters fighting against both supply and demand, chiefly in Africa and Asia. In China, there is a legal market for ivory within the limits of five tonnes per year, a policy that causes a new set of problems. On the black market, hundreds of tonnes of ivory flow through China annually. The money supports organized crime, facilitates corruption, and flows back to Africa where it enriches warlords and tempts impoverished soldiers into poaching.

The Ivory Game features a diverse array of heroes: the Tanzanian task force leader Elisifa Ngowi, hunting down the crime lord Shetani; the Italian founder of WildLeaks Andrea Crosta, facilitating anonymous tips from whistle-blowers; and the Chinese activist Hongxiang Huang, undertaking covert missions to document illegal trade.

The fight against the illegal ivory trade doesn't only take place on the front lines. Anyone can play a role by raising a voice to devalue ivory as a commodity and pressuring politicians to enforce bans. This film is a powerful tool in that cause.

THOM POWERS

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