The Elephant Queen
2019 | Documentary | 96 minutes | In English
The title character is the 50-year old elephant Athena. She has the responsibility of taking care of her family, daughter Princess, toddler Wei-Wei, and newborn, Mimi. The elephants live in a bucolic area of the African plains called The Kingdom. During the dry season, they survive by frequenting the many waterholes located around said Kingdom. The waterholes are shared by neighboring creatures: bullfrogs, chameleons, dung beetles, killifish, and terrapins. But Athena faces a crisis. There is a severe drought and the waterholes are dry. Athena must lead her brood to a known waterhole that’s 200 miles away. She faces an agonizing question: Should Athena wait until her newborn Mimi is old enough to endure the long and hazardous trip or should she leave immediately and not put the rest of the family at risk?
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 90%
- Metacritic Score: 67
Cinema Peace Awards: Nominated for the International Green Film Award
Critics’ Choice Movie Awards: Nominated, Best Science/Nature Documentary and Best Narration
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Filmmakers Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble have the footage to support their narrative. Deeble, the cinematographer, gets spectacularly intimate and beautiful shots of elephants and their animal friends. The film is at its best when it lays out the entire ecosystem species by species, each relying on the other in a delicate chain of life, death, verdancy and sustenance.
Time and again we’re shown how curious and perceptive elephants are. One scene, where the herd seemingly recognizes the bones of a dead member and stops to mourn the animal, is breathtaking. THE ELEPHANT QUEEN sets out, first and foremost, to use a narrative to build compassion. And here, a good story is as effective as a shout.
Shot over four years in Kenya, THE ELEPHANT QUEEN boasts an undeniable authenticity, thanks to its filmmakers’ quarter-century of experience making films in Africa. And while elephants are naturally camera-friendly subjects, their behavior here is captured with a particularly impressive immediacy. Alex Heffes’ score adds significant emotionality to the proceedings, as does the mellifluous narration by Ejiofor that provides a soothing counterpoint to even the more upsetting moments.
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