The Documentary

 

An African Love Story

How does an actress in Hollywood, from Wisconsin, end up flying off to Kenya to help Elephant and Rhino? Well, by hearing a CD by an African man, googling him, seeing he is on tour in the US, asking him to coffee via MySpace and marrying him six months later...of course.


The other day I was at a press event retelling the amazing synchronicity of events that changed the course of our lives and I realized that that synchronicity has in no way slowed down. This is a human interest piece, a coming of age story --- This is actually a love story: Mine with a man, his with a country and ours with life.


When I finally finagled Abri’s cell phone number three and a half years ago from his manager (through MySpace) I grabbed the phone and dialed before thinking. When I heard that unmistakable South African accent say, Hello, I realized I hadn’t rehearsed what the hell to say. I was able to retrieve my name and introduce myself and hear him say, I’m Abri. I then mentioned how much I’ve enjoyed his CD and he said, thanks...and then everything else I thought to say like, “I’ve been single for four years” or “Your voice is so sexy” or “my Mom thinks your very cute” I decided would be better not to say and I just couldn’t bear to ask “Want to have coffee with me?”... So I scrambled to elevate my actual rather base primal reason for the call. On his website he had a logo for the famed African Elephant whisperer Lawrence Anthony. I knew of Lawrence and had his book so I said something like “You like Elephants? I like Elephants!...Maybe we can do something to help ...the Elephants!...” Thankfully Abri got the gist, cut me off and asked me to coffee and four days later we talked for twelve hours...and that conversation is still going.


At our three year wedding anniversary we were off to see what we can do to help Kenyans save elephants and rhino in his home land. The land I stole him from where his family had been at the forefront of Elephant Rhino research in the early 1900’s.


The story of Abri’s family was told to me by Cicely and Gran from the stoep at their home in S Africa in 2010. I could type it up for you in perfect duplication but it would pale in comparison to what it was like to hear the accent, the phrasing, to see the expressions and emotions wash over them. In the silences when they couldn’t speak about the loss of home and Elephants in Uganda, they said more than words could say. How can one capture their story, that personal connection to the Africa - in anything but moving pictures?


This can not only be a story about the actual act of poaching as the Elephants and Rhinos have been reduced to a product by a big business that has many facets, many ways to address this crisis and must include “ The violence of the human animal” as Gran described.


When Gran said to me, “I am an African, I am a Kenyan. I was born during a storm, when a herd of elephants stampeded my families coffee fields.”...I was so moved it was embarrassing.

We don’t talk about where we are from that way here. We are not part of the land we grew up on. So this is not a Westerners story but if we are to hear it and try to help, it may be up to one of us to go there and let them tell it.


We filmed conversations with Kenyan's to hear about their country, what they see, what they know, NOT a Westerners idea of what should happen or should be. I hear from Africans that we interfere in their country far too often upsetting a balance we couldn’t foresee creating some of the problems Africa now faces, insulting them with dependance, supplanting our way of life never questioning it’s obvious superiority when they are actually a happier people in many ways. We need to also learn from them and then work together with mutual respect, understanding and appreciation. It is their home, not ours, and it is our Earth.


This documentary is to be a journey in to a land we are fascinated by, most of us have on their bucket list to see, but can not possibly understand without more conversations with African’s about the challenges and the solutions. All journeys and relationships should start the way mine has -with conversation. This is the story of an actress from the West who married an African who’s family is part of this history and land and we believe in the fight for fairness and freewill for all species. This is her first sight of this land, but will be told through the mouths of life times of living there. They can tell us how we can help and we can then chose to be part of their heroism...or not.


We stepped in to one of the last “wild west” frontiers on earth and arguably the most beautiful that my husband says has a life energy he’s felt the lack of and has missed since the moment he stepped off the plane in the US and that he has never felt anyplace else. I wonder what they have that we don’t? One difference may be that they don’t think of terms of “have.”


This is a coming of age story...for me... not for Africa and I am excited and honored to be able to include others via this modern technology of film that has been my paint brush of choice for the last almost 20 years of my career.


A conversation that can only lead to a greater understanding and therefore love.