Playa Vista filmmaker Kerry David finds a new weapon in the war against poaching: women

By Shanee Edwards

Director Kerry David with one of the threatened animals her documentary seeks to protect

We’ve all heard the tragic accounts of wild animals being poached on a massive scale in Africa and Asia. Elephants are still being slaughtered for their ivory tusks, rhinos for their horns. Poaching poses a huge threat to these majestic animals — including giraffes, which have recently been placed on the list of endangered species.

Playa Vista filmmaker Kerry David’s new documentary “Breaking Their Silence: Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War” tells the story of an unlikely group of women willing to take a stand for these animals.

After founding her philanthropic organization Over and Above Africa, David says she wanted to make a film about the poaching crisis but knew it needed to be told from a fresh, hopeful perspective.

“I realized there was a lens through which this story had never been told,” says David, “and that was through the female lens. From the moment that thought came to me, I launched into this filmmaking process.”

David learned that many women in Africa and Asia were dedicating their lives to protecting the animals they so loved, and she was overwhelmed by their empathy and compassion.

“Women,” says David, “have a different kind of strength in this space — a resilience and a humility that is inspiring. I set out with the thought: ‘Could women be the solution that ends the poaching crisis in Africa?’”

During filming, David and her small, all-female crew traveled to Africa and Asia, often finding themselves in dangerous situations, like a riot in Vietnam, where she was explicitly told not to visit.

“Vietnamese citizens were demonstrating against the government, burning buildings down and a strong army presence was out in force,” she recalls. “Soldiers were arresting foreigners and pulling cameras out of journalists’ hands to control the narrative. We didn’t know if we were actually allowed into the country, that we’d be able to film and we had all our media with us — would that be confiscated going in? Ultimately,
I made the decision that if these women were courageous enough to go on camera for our film, then we would be courageous enough to show up and film them.”

David hopes her film will create awareness around the poaching crisis and motivate people to take action.

“Humans have an enormous capacity for love, and that is what’s needed here,” she says. “We need a global community to become outraged at this poaching crisis.”

“Breaking Their Silence: Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War” screens at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 16, as part of the Silicon Beach Film Festival at HHLA’s Cinemark 18 & XD (6081 Center Drive, Westchester). Individual tickets are $15; festival passes start at $25. Visit breakingtheirsilence.com or siliconbeachff.com.

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