Trophy

Grade: 4.5/5

Conservatism is incredibly important to keep our little home we call Earth as healthy as possible with a balanced ecosystem and a regulated habitat to maintain a functioning planet that works together with that of our regular day society. How do we support conservatism though? When big game hunting and poaching have become major issues within those habitats that are composed of the rarest animals in the world that are facing the brink of extinction like elephants, lions, and rhinos. Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz work together to provide some insight to this situation, instead of providing a solution to this ongoing problem. This directorial decision works in the best of ways for this documentary to focus on the enveloping discussion that has been divided between that of political parties, animal rights activists, and different walks of life. “Trophy” is a documentary that is constructed with that of sheer beauty while providing hideous glimpses into the tragedies behind this problematic case that is beginning to affect many in the worst of ways. 

“Trophy” focuses on the power of perception. We start with that of a sheep farmer and longtime hunter from south Texas that has decided to go on the journey to Zimbabwe, South Africa to hunt the big five. A trophy hunter’s dream that consists of a buffalo, an elephant, a lion, a leopard, and a rhino. The film begins with that of him sharing a beautifully southern experience with that of his son killing his first deer. It’s a heartwarming moment, depending on who you are, that showcases the essence of the southerner bond between that of a father and his son. The film then transitions to that of the big game hunting industry and its structure and functioning as a business that allows for hunters to “pick out the animal and book the kill” as Ecologist Chris Parker states in the documentary. The documentary carries itself to another point of view by introducing that of John Hume, a rhino breeder whose life mission is to save the rhino species from extinction. His only option in maintaining this species from disappearing from our existence is to sell their horns. It’s a painless process that is done in the most humane of ways, and it's the only way to prevent the enormous poaching of his farm from that of the poverty-stricken community. His argument is against that of big game hunting, and instead, he’d rather begin transitioning into a free-range farming process of these species. As Mr. Hume asks the viewer "Give me one animal that went extinct while farmers were breeding it and making money out of it," He retorts his answer to this challenge by stating "There's not one." It’s a hard fact to swallow for those who desire these animals be allowed to roam in freedom and prosperity. The illegal poaching of these animals is what keeps them from releasing these animals as these local men and women are starving and striving to survive in this poverty-stricken country that is inescapably struggling to scrape by. We see the severity of this point of evidence in that of how Schwarz and Clusiau focus on that of a man whose serves as an officer of the Zimbabwe police force. In how they attack that of poachers by searching a man’s house that is alleged to have a gun that has been used to poach local livestock of nearby ranchers. This also provides a systematic glimpse of the sociological conditions of the white man controlling these issues of an African American country that is failing to take their country back. The second side of this evidential situation is after a Philip Glass takes down his first elephant in a gruesomely dark scene of an animal crying its final breaths before it reaches its last breath. Shortly after they share their impressive success on social media, a group of locals begins to tear down this magnificent beast in a scene similar to that of a zombie movie in which they rip down this gorgeous animal to provide food for their families. It’s a shocking scene that's shrouded in authenticity and legitimate reasoning despite that of the horrific imagery. These points of perspective are all constructed in a way that allows for each to share their reasoning behind their beliefs. Whether it’s that of a big game hunter whose perception is situated upon that of his religious beliefs and his upbringing as a young hunter, or that of John Hume whose idea is that of economic prosperity that allows for everyone to bask in the thriving business without being able to murder the goose who lays the golden egg. All of these interviews, perceptions, and magnificent glimpses of these breathtaking animals is captured through gorgeously simplistic cinematography. The camera is simplified to that of a drone for aerial shots and gliding camera movements that captures these animals in all their glory. The death scenes are treated with haunting severity by focusing on the eyes that have lost the life within them. It’s an added dose of somberness to this already heartwrenching film that showcases a complicated situation from all angles. Some aspects are directly dismantled by the filmmaker; others are given legitimate focus behind that of their opinion on solving this problem.The second act may become a bit slow due to the emphasis on that of the intricacies of Mr. Hume’s farm that begins to drag a bit but serves an essential point in providing investment into his business.

“Trophy” is a documentary that provides multiple points of views dilemma that has no simple solution. It provides an added dose of a subplot in how our limited perspective as Americans and people outside of the ongoing fight is skewed to that of irrationality. A legitimate statement that reigns authentic as we consistently consume the idea of our righteousness without being present for these horrific disputes and events that occur in this massively damaged country. “Trophy” rebels against that of the protesters that stand outside of the big game hunting convention in Las Vegas whose signs state that of “Killing isn’t conservation.” Sadly though, it is. Despite the tragic imagery, hunting is the biggest format behind that of a conservationist as it is the only way that allows for this animal to be continually bread and cared for even if they are raised for slaughter. It’s not the only way though; John Hume provides an alternative method of selling these animals resources to the public. Whether it’s that of a rhino horn, ivory, or that of a lion’s mane to provide financial funding to these animals well-being that allows for them to thrive in healthy environments while we make money off of them. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but money is the key to survival for these species. Much like “Trophy,” it's a solution that is necessary, practical, and authentic.