The Film

 An expedition car from the Sykes safari shadows a lion pride on the Serengeti, 1937

An expedition car from the Sykes safari shadows a lion pride on the Serengeti, 1937

 

What, exactly, is this film about? At its core, it's about wildlife: how we treated animals then; how we treat them now; the moral, ethical, and scientific issues surrounding hunting; what we can do to ensure these species aren't lost forever; and how Alex and Hunter, descendants of prolific hunters, can atone for these past actions.

The goals of this film are two-fold. The first is to follow the route of the Sykes family's 1937 safari and contrast it to what we find today. This portion will follow Hunter, his wife, and young son, accompanied by Alex Hunter as their guide, as they retrace their family's footsteps—with cameras rather than rifles—to see, learn, and experience what has changed and what has stayed the same in and around the Serengeti of Tanzania.

The second goal is to explore the legacy of Alex Hunter’s family in creating some of the conservation programs and wildlife reserves in present-day East Africa. We will visit Kenya’s National Parks and wildlife reserves while we explore Alex’s family legacy and current conservation work. For both portions of the film, we hope to illuminate, educate, and spur action on the current issues facing Africa’s iconic and endangered wildlife.

While we will visit many of the same places as were seen in 1937, we won’t find the same things. We expect to find evidence of the huge declines in wildlife populations due to habitat loss, poaching, nuisance hunting, and trophy hunting. We will see the drastic changes in the landscape due to climate change, ecosystem changes due to loss of species, and the expansion of agriculture and urbanization. We will witness the positive and negative impacts upon the peoples and cultures of East Africa from golbalization and the echoes of colonialism.

What will the people we encounter along the way—villagers, wildlife rangers, tourist guides, shopkeepers—think of us, our family legacies, their world, and their future? These questions, and many others that we will ask on our journey, are at the heart of this film, and it is by comparing and contrasting the historical to the contemporary—two entirely different worlds eighty years apart—that we will create a fascinating and exiting film.

Our team recognizes the amazing potential of this film to entertain, educate, and inspire audiences. We will shoot in a vérité documentary style: around the campfire and dinner table, on the move, and while observing wildlife, landscapes, and cultural sights. We plan to utilize prepared questions, clips, and quotes from the 1937 safari films and journals to illicit thoughts and reactions from the protagonists and those that we encounter along the way. 

Through captivating cinematography and storytelling, including glimpses into a bygone era, five generations of two hunting families can illuminate the challenges facing African wildlife and cultures in the twenty-first century.

 Sykes family patriarch Howard poses with his first rhino kill of the safari, 1937

Sykes family patriarch Howard poses with his first rhino kill of the safari, 1937