Films created this summer in Africa by Princeton and Kenyan students focus on a range of environmental issues

Documentary films on a range of wildlife conservation issues produced this summer in Kenya by students from Princeton University will be screened on Tuesday, October 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Garden Theater in Princeton. In collaboration with fellow students from Kenyan universities and faculty filmmakers Su Friedrich and Katie Carpenter, the 15 students worked in teams to write, direct, shoot on location, and edit the films through a six-week Global Seminar summer course, “Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: The Art of Science Storytelling,” offered by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies in conjunction with the Office of International Programs and cosponsored by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts and the Princeton Atelier, and the Princeton Environmental Institute. A conversation with the student and faculty filmmakers, a musical performance, and reception will follow the screening. The evening’s events are free and open to the public.

Working from a base camp at the Mpala Research Center in Laikipia, Kenya, students embarked on a safari in Nairobi National Park, a large game preserve on the edge of the city; hiked MuKenya and visited Ol Pejeta Conservancy; participated in lectures by environmental scientists, including Dan Rubenstein of Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and by members of Community Based Conservation Films; and interviewed poaching patrol members, park rangers, and representatives from eco-tourism.

The five short documentary films to be screened are:

The Matriarch, which follows the life of Jada, an elephant and the matriarch of her family who has survived a brutal poaching attack. Jada’s story is interwoven with the research being done at Mpala by Rob Pringle, a Princeton professor of ecology and evolutionary biology on how important elephants are for the environment and what is at risk if they no longer exist in the wild. This film was created by Sarah Jeong, Loise Njagi, Brady Valashinas, and Réka Zempléni.

Curse of the Gazelle King, which investigates the elusive lives of Grant’s gazelles through one man’s story about a young gazelle named Lenana and features John Njuguna, a professional safari guide hired to transport students during their six weeks at Mpala. This film was created by Lily Dattilo, Cameron Johanning, Maryanne Wangui Njuguna, and Spencer Rodriguez.

Nature’s Nurturers, which reveals the work of the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs, focusing on the primary and secondary schools of Laikipia. The film explores the ways in which the clubs are using experiential learning to educate students about local conservation issues, and how the students then share what they’ve learned with their families and villages. This film was created by Raghav Gandotra, Dayna Li, Charlotte Maher Levy, and Kevin Midigo.

Realignments: A Zebra Story, which examines the differences in appearance and behavior of the two zebra species in Kenya, providing insight into the endangerment of the Grévy’s zebras and their uncertain future. This film was created by Lydia Corbett, Victor Oloo, Amber Stewart, and Mason Williams.

The Lost Boys of Laikipia, which relates the story of the African wild dog, an endangered species that disappeared from the region in the 1980s but has since returned. The film follows the work of central Kenya professor Rosie Woodroffe, who runs the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project, and asks the question, what will it take to protect the wild dogs and help them thrive once more? This film was created by Muhinza Bushoki, Kelsey Dennison, Nick Ellis, and Kemy Lin.

Following the screening will be a performance by Umqombothi, Princeton’s African a cappella ensemble, a conversation with the student and faculty filmmakers, and a reception that will include Kenyan foods.

The course was led by award-winning documentary filmmakers Su Friedrich, a member of the Lewis Center’s visual arts faculty, and Katie Carpenter, a Princeton alumna and a producer of wildlife films for National Geographic TV. Friedrich’s most recent film, Gut Renovation, was selected for the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival. Her films have won numerous awards and have been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, The Stadtkino in Vienna, the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver, the National Film Theater in London, the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Wellington Film Festival in New Zealand, and the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Carpenter’s films have won Emmy, Cable Ace, and Cine awards and have aired on Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geographic, TLC, PBS, Fox, Disney, and the BBC. Her recent work has focused on nature and the environment, with a particular focus on species diversity.

The Global Seminar “Documentary Filmmaking in Kenya: The Art of Science Storytelling,” is co-sponsored by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Princeton Atelier and the Program in Visual Arts of the Lewis Center for the Arts, and by the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Presented By

  • Princeton Atelier
  • Program in Visual Arts
  • Princeton Environmental Institute
  • Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies