An interview with the creators of The Last Male Standing, a film about Sudan, the last male northern white rhino.
The journey of this film started in 2014 through a successful Kickstarter and tells the story of the Kenyan caretakers that have dedicated their lives to the last male Northern White Rhino in the world, Sudan. On the 20th of March Sudan passed away, putting the sub-species close to extinction, with just two females left. IVF treatment is being trailed. 20% of the profits for this film will go back into wildlife conservation efforts and this interview with the directors gives an insight into this inspiring film.
The Last Male Standing
with Andrew Harrison Brown (Producer) and David Hambridge (Director)
David: There is so much to say about the rhino caretakers at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Each member of the team is authentically unique. Many of them come from different towns or villages, from different tribes, cultures and beliefs - but somehow despite their many differences, they have created a strong brotherhood. It's a bond as strong as any that I've seen in my experience, and at its core, is one cause: to protect and serve these severely endangered rhinos.
'Our hearts go out to the men who stayed with Sudan at all times during his final moments - through the days and nights. Your steadfast love and dedication to Sudan in his final chapter was remarkable.
We are truly honoured to film your story.' (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
Film Trailer: The Last Male Standing
Find out more information about the film here: www.thelastmalestanding.com
What have you learnt making this film?
David: I've learned to trust my instincts as a filmmaker. I've always wanted this film to be told by a Kenyan voice rather than the usual Western wildlife experts and scientists, but with that, I've had to be much more patient for my story to unfold. Learning patience doesn't come cheap either. I've had to sacrifice a lot of comforts and opportunities back in the U.S. because I was trying to build a full-bodied story in Kenya. But in the end, I have no doubt that the story I've been able to capture will be worth it.
Andrew: Over the last four years as a producer, my bandwidth has really been divided by two separate feature films: When Lambs Become Lions (Tribeca 2018) and The Last Male Standing. During that time, I've learned that you cannot create interesting stories about someone without first being truly interested in them. One thing that I appreciate about working with David is that we both value building relationships with the people that we're filming and we don't prioritize footage over people. We both strive to create an environment during production where all voices matter, all ideas matter and everyone feels like they are welcome to contribute to the greater story. That isn't always the case in many productions.
JoJo, one of Sudan’s caregivers visits his tombstone nearly 3 weeks after his death to clean the tombstone. Simply put, these guys haven’t stopped caring for him, even after death. Personally, they have taught me a new level of service and sacrifice - they’ve shown me in a very tangible and raw way what it truly means to dedicate yourself to a cause larger than yourself. While they’ve grieved and focused their sights on caring for other conservation efforts, you can’t spend time around Ol Pejeta without feeling the void of Sudan and the amount of love these men had for him. (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
On the March 19th Dr. Morne de La Rey extracts Sudan’s DNA from different parts of the body, a critical measure to save the northern white rhinos from extinction. By cryogenically banking Sudan’s DNA, scientists hope to use that genetic material to hopefully resurrect the species from their recent ‘natural’ extinction. (Andrew Harrison Brown - olpejeta)
Photography and film : A purpose
Andrew: I believe that the sole purpose of documentary filmmaking is to spark conversation throughout society. Ironically, although we live in a period of time where our lives are filled with more noise than ever, it seems as though we are having fewer conversations with each other. Everyone has an opinion that they want to share - or tweet - but there just doesn't seem to be a strong desire to listen. Everyone is just screaming statistics at each other in hopes of winning an argument, and in my experience, the only thing that consistently gets me out of that self-centric rut is when I stop long enough to listen to other people's stories. I think that's the posture that we all need to squeeze ourselves into if we are going to grow past the current climate. And that's what I love about documentary films.
We must remember the future generation and the environment they inherit.
David: At the end of the day, we hope our film carries Sudan's legacy and the sacrifice these caretakers have made out into the world. Sudan and the caretakers' story is overflowing with lessons that can benefit everyone, if we are just willing to listen.