Eye For Film >> Movies >> Akashinga (2020) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
This slick National Geographic documentary snapshot of Zimbabwe elephant protection from producer-turned-director Maria Wilhelm comes with big name backing - James Cameron is its executive director. The opening moments could have been cut from one of his thrillers as we are introduced to some of the armed women rangers, who are part of the all-female force the Akashinga, working to protect elephants from poachers in Zimbabwe.
Their project is just one run by the not-for-profit International Anti-Poaching Foundation founded by former counter-insurgency special ops soldier Damien Mander - who explains some of the organisation's ethos here. Wilhelm joins the group as they are receiving a large batch of wannabe rangers for 72 hours of gruelling exercises that aims to whittle their number down from 500 to 82 graduates.
Showing as part of the online line-up at Tribeca, the film features strong camerawork from Neil Fairlie, Cian Hamilton and Micaela Hamilton, shows Sergeant Petronella Chigumbura as she welcomes the latest batch of "ladies" to the frontline of the war against poaching. The camerawork is inventive, mixing aerial shots with more conventional framing, which adds to the strong pace of the film. The emphasis is not on the elephants but on the sisterhood, solidarity and empowerment of the women who patrol the parkland where they live. Part of what the women go through is physical, but they also bring tales of their lives - from abusive husbands to struggling to feed their families - that are testimony to inner strengths that go well beyond the ability to wrestle someone else into a river.
At just 13 minutes, there's a limit to how much ground can be covered here and Wilhelm does a good job of giving an overview, even if the emphasis here is more on emotion than on the facts of how the women go about their business once they are trained. Some of the observations feel a bit pat - such as when Mander talks about women's "caring instincts" making them particularly well-suited to the role - but this is nonetheless an asorbing and informative documentary that is begging for a longer, feature-length treatment.Reviewed on: 17 Apr 2020