Photo Flash: Stars Turn Out For ELEPHANTS AND MAN: A LITANY OF TRAGEDY
Lily Tomlin, Cher, Billy Bob Thornton, Tippi Hedren, Ed Begley, Jr., George Chakiris, Ken Davitian and Stella Stevens were among many celebrities who turned out for the premiere of the hard-hitting documentary "Elephants and Man: A Litany of Tragedy" at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood on January 20. The film, which chronicles the history of elephants in captivity, was shown as part of the screening series "Kat Kramer's Films That Change the World."
The documentary displays in graphic detail the physical and emotional agony elephants have endured in captivity through the centuries, from the intentional electrocution of an elephant by Thomas Edison to the painful beatings that many still suffer at zoos and circuses. The images are nauseating: an elephant hanged by its neck as "entertainment" for a crowd of spectators; behind-the-scenes video of animal trainers and hunters using clubs and hooks to beat elephants into submission; an elephant wailing in agony like a screaming child as it is shocked with an electric prod; an escaped elephant being shot repeatedly until it collapses and dies.
"There are films that can change the world, and this is one of them," said actor and activist Ed Begley, Jr. "How can people not see that plants and other species are part of the web of life that supports all life? It will be our own undoing if we don't stop this."
"Elephants and Man: A Litany of Tragedy" was directed by Jacek Kropinski and executive produced by Melya Kaplan, founder of the nonprofit Voice for the Animals Foundation. Kaplan participated in a panel discussion with Tomlin, Hedren, Kramer and activists, urging members of the of the celebrity audience to use their influence to help get the word out about how elephants are still mistreated by many zoos and circuses, when nobody is watching.
"This film clearly shows how elephants endure a lifetime of suffering when they are captured or bred to be put on exhibit for our momentary ‘pleasure,'" said Tomlin, who has been outspoken in her support for closing elephant exhibits at zoos. "Elephants need hundreds, even thousands, of acres to walk and roam as they do in the wild. Ambulating is necessary to keep their feet and joints disease-free and their mental state healthy and thriving. A sanctuary with hundreds of acres and the companionship of other elephants is the closest environment we can provide to their living in the wild."
Although the film is about elephants, it sparked discussion afterward about similar issues involving other exotic animals that are often tortured and killed in captivity. Actress and animal rights activist Tippi Hedren talked about proposed federal legislation she is spearheading to ban the breeding of exotic cats to be sold as pets or for private possession.
"The bill was working its way through Congress, but somebody inserted language that said circuses would be exempt," she said. "I was told that without that exemption, it would never pass. I would not agree to that. I want everyone to write letters to Congress and say ‘Pass the bill to stop the breeding.'"
Actress Kat Kramer founded "Kat Kramer's Films That Changed the World" series in 2009 to highlight motion pictures that raise awareness of important social issues. Her father, the late producer/director Stanley Kramer, was known for making socially conscious movies such as Judgment and Nuremberg, Ship of Fools, On the Beach, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Bless the Beasts and the Children.
"I was honored that so many people turned out for this event," she said. "It was a difficult film to watch, but so important. I really think it will have impact, as more people see it. The audience was clearly moved. If people continue talking about this issue and put pressure on zoos and lawmakers, we really can change things for the better."
Actor Ken Davitian with Kat Kramer
Cher was among the VIP guests who spoke about the plight of elephants