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Guest Post: Filming Elephant Landmine Survivors Walk on Prostheses is No Small Feat

by Windy Borman
April 24, 2012 9:30 AM
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The Eyes of Thailand

The Eyes of Thailand” documentary tells the true story of Soraida Salwala’s quest to help two elephant landmine survivors, Motala and Baby Mosha, walk again on their own four legs by building elephant-sized prosthetics. Narrated by Ashley Judd, the film premieres on April 28, 2012 at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Soraida’s love for elephants began early. When she was 8-years old, Soraida saw an injured elephant lying on the side of the road because a truck hit it. As her family drove past, she asked, If the elephant was hurt, why couldn’t he go to the hospital?

Not getting an answer she liked, in 1993 Soraida opened the World’s First Asian Elephant Hospital in Lampang, Thailand. Little did she know that her hospital would develop a niche for treating elephant landmine survivors.

By comparison, I did not know I would be an “elephant person” until I met Soraida and two elephant landmine survivors, Motala and Baby Mosha, at her Elephant Hospital in 2007. I was in Thailand filming a theatre company, but one day I stumbled into FAE’s Elephant Hospital with my video camera. Soraida welcomed me, talked with me on camera, and then took me to meet Mosha and Motala. At that point, they had saved their lives, but they did not know if they could help them walk again.

Upon my return home from the two-month trip, I began logging all the footage from FAE’s Elephant Hospital and I started to weep. The elephants were so brave and trusting after humans had mutilated them by planting landmines. I found it unacceptable to live in a world where endangered species, humans—really any sentient being—step on landmines. I knew I would never be able to write a check big enough to solve the problem, but, being a filmmaker, I could make a film about it to start the conversation and inspire people to join the cause.

Over the next three years, “The Eyes of Thailand” documentary began to take shape. In August 2009, Soraida invited me to film the Prostheses Foundation’s attempt to build Mosha and Motala prosthetic limbs. This was a very ambitious undertaking because the Prostheses Foundation didn’t know whether it would be strong enough to hold their weight, and Soraida didn’t know whether the elephants would accept it. In the end, both elephants accepted their artificial legs and I left in August 2009 thinking I had a happy ending to the story.

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More: Women Directors, Documentary, Ashley Judd

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  • Tory | April 24, 2012 3:44 PMReply

    I have been to FAE. Soraida is Mother Theresa of the Elephants. She sings/talks to them and they respond. The kindness of the staff and the efforts of the elephants are accomplishments that are hard won. Congrats to Windy for her perseverance.

  • Scooter | April 24, 2012 1:34 PMReply

    Just want to say to Windy, Tim and the entire "The Eyes of Thailand" team you should be proud this is very special film. I look forward to meeting you all at the premiere at Newport Beach Film Festival... Scooter :-)

  • KimmyM | April 24, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    OMG!!!!! Beautiful.... we need more films like this to be made. I just bought my tickets for the World Premiere.

  • MaryVan | April 24, 2012 1:25 PMReply

    Wow...way to go! I can't to see this film, looks amazing. Way to filmmakers!

  • AnotherPlace | April 24, 2012 11:57 AMReply

    Great article. I didn't realise this was happening, and it's really heartening to see how much effort people are putting in there to help those elephants. Good to know there are still people out there who really care and are actively seeking out solutions to problems. Made me feel a little less jaded today. Thank you.

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