2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE ELEPHANT QUEEN

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Janna Deeble

Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble track a pachyderm matriarch as she leads her family through the African savannah.

Festival Section:

Sundance Program Description:

The African savanna elephant is the world’s largest animal and one of the few species that live in a matriarchal society. THE ELEPHANT QUEEN introduces us to Athena, a 50-year-old “tusker” – a now rare elephant whose tusks grow long enough to reach the ground – who is queen of her herd. These animals live in the arid lands of Africa, where food and water are scarce and there is a precarious balance between life and death. We join them as their “green season” watering hole is drying up, and Athena is weighing the dangerous trek to the oasis that is their dry-season refuge, a precarious journey particularly for the youngest elephants. Throughout their adventure, we witness their lives, the challenges they face, and the complex ecosystem that depends on them for survival.

Featuring beautiful cinematography and honeyed narration, this glimpse into a complex animal society contextualizes how the changing, unforgiving climate and illegal poaching are substantially impacting these majestic pachyderms and ultimately the ecosystem they help maintain.

Some Background:

  • Victoria Stone

    Stone is an Emmy-winning nature documentarian, who has been making wildlife films in Africa for the past three decades. Her most recent doc for television, THE QUEEN OF TREES, won a Peabody Award.


  • Mark Deeble

    Deeble also shares an Emmy win for his past collaborations with partner Stone. He also is the film’s cinematographer.


  • Lucinda Englehart

    Engelhart previously associate produced Sundance fiction feature alum SON OF MAN and the Berlin Golden Bear-winning U-CARMEN EKHAYELITSHA.


  • David Dickie

    This is the third project that Dickie has cut for Deeble & Stone.

Why You Should Watch:
Stone and Deeble worked on this beautifully lensed project, their first theatrical doc, for eight years. Following in the footsteps of films like MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, they draw out distinct personalities for Athena and her herd, instilling empathy in the audience. The doc made its world premiere at this past Toronto International Film Festival.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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