Director Jon Kasbe brings focus to the elephants that are victims of the violent ivory trade in Kenya. He also shows the perspectives of the men who are in the opposing sides of that trade. There’s X and Lukas who peach the elephants and X’s cousin Asan protecting the animals.
The documentary’s sympathies are clearly on Asan who, with tears in his eyes, talks about the death he has to witness as part of his job. But it also shows X and Lukas’ performative swagger. That aside, both men aware of the complex dynamics of the trade they’re illegally practicing.
Kasbe shows that many of the phone conversations between X, Lukas, and the buyers. Sometimes X waits for them, sometimes they call repeatedly. They ask for supply while X waits for the highways to be clear of rangers. Audiences watch smoke waft within whatever room he’s in.
There are many factors as to why poachers can’t just hunt. Kasbe also examines the cognitive dissonance within the poaching community. X and Lukas notice how many elephants there are walking around the bush, elephants they can make money from despite the government telling them that they’re under threat.
The elephants are under threat day and night, the poachers hunt both them during dusk and dawn. They pay attention to both the elephants trumpeting or to any signs of the rangers. It’s hard to sympathize with them, and Kasbe doesn’t always do so, but he does so when he reflects what they sense.
There re some unfortunate characterizations here but Kasbe’s fascinating observations are always welcome. He shows a lot of methods that the government use to control poaching like religion. He also, through sight and sound, portray Kenya as a beautiful country despite the ugliness that the people have to endure.