“For future generations, we must never forget what extinction looks like.” - Jojo, rhino caretaker at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy
The world is a wide and wild place filled all kinds of languages, cultures, and ways of life. Yet some things are universal, and sympathy is one of them. Filmmaker David Hambridge knows that, and uses the theme of sympathy to guide his latest doc. In Kifaru, Hambridge explores the daily lives of rhino caretakers for the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and paints a beautiful and tragic picture of the relationship between man and nature.
Kifaru focuses on the fate of the last male northern white rhino (or “kifaru”) in Swahili. The film’s unflinching look at the kifaru’s treatment -- or lack thereof -- is brutal yet necessary. Kifaru is beautifully organic in how it addresses the lives of all of the conservancy workers and how it addresses the impact of extinction. It’s rare to witness extinction in real time, but the film uses these employees as an entry point to examine extinction up close and personal.
As we grow closer to the workers, we learn to love and sympathize with the daily lives of each of the men. It’s hard not to root for one of the conservancy workers, Jojo, who grows extremely close with some of the rhinos. While others feel so consumed by the caretaking of the animals that a sense of futility grows, Jojo’s commitment and empathy gives us glimmers of hope. Kifaru purports to be about rhinos, but it becomes as much about their caretakers as anything. In doing so, it tells a distinctly human story that, while hard to watch, also feels necessary.
While it’s hard to face the inevitable, the film ends with a beautiful connection between nature and Jojo’s daughter, hinting that there might be hope for the animal kingdom and some of the animals facing extinction. No one could truly understand the meaning that these rhinos have to the caretakers, there is a sense of something more familiar: a family.
Kifaru runs 81 minutes and will be shown Friday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 13 at 12:30 p.m. at Alamo Drafthouse as part of Thin Line Film Festival. The director, David Hamridge, as well as cast member Joseph "Jojo" Wachira, will be in attendance. To register for Thin Line Fest or to purchase a premium registration, click here.