A video vision for Africa

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2000:

NAIROBI––Simon Trevor, 60, “flew to Africa in a light aircraft with his family in 1946,” his curriculum vitae begins. “He was educated in Zimbabwe and South Africa.”

After working on some of the major dam projects along the Zambesi River as a teenager, beginning at Kariba in 1955, Trevor joined the Kenya Wildlife Service at age 20, serving for four years as a game warden at Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks.

What Trevor really wanted to do, though, was make films about animals––especially films that would persuade people to save animals and their habitat. In 1963, therefore, just as kenya was becoming an independent nation, Trevor left KWS to film the international effort to rescue wildlife from the rising water behind the Kariba dam.

Trevor’s first full-length feature film was The African Elephant (1970); he was nominated for an Academy Award.

Trevor went on to serve as second unit director for the African segments of such hits as Out of Africa, The Color Purple, Gorillas In The Mist, White Hunter Black Heart, and Congo. Between Hollywood hits, Trevor made documentaries for Survival Anglia, the British wildlife TV and video company founded by the late Gerald Durrell.

When not on the road, filming or raising funds to do films, Trevor lives in Tsavo, where he is now an honorary warden. He observes the triennial meetings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species as representative of the Bellerive Foundation, the Swiss-based conservation fund headed by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan; is a trustee of the British-based Born Free Foundation; and is a member of the executive committee of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which means he is often found on his longtime friend Daphne Sheldrick’s front porch, discussing business and wildlife politics with visitors.

All of this, Trevor anticipates, could be just the prelude to what he envisions accomplishing through the African Environmental Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization he recently incorporated in both Kenya and California. Trevor donated to it the equivalent of his life’s savings: 270 hours of film to which he owned the rights.

“Much of it comes from Tsavo,” Trevor says, “but there is substantial footage from other parts of East Africa. All of it is of historical and educational value, on animal behavior and conservation issues.”

What Trevor wants to do with it is produce videos for a primarily African audience, in African native languages.

“There is no better way to alert awareness in people of all backgrounds than through the medium of films narrated in their own tongue,” Trevor explains. “There is an insatiable desire for knowledge among the people of Africa. They are willing to listen, and to develop new ways and means to halt the loss of their natural resources. With modern methods of transmission becoming available even in the most remote parts of Africa, there is a real need for the right kind of information to be made available. Commercial TV stations are reluctant to transmit controversial material which may upset governments, politicians, or commercial organizations. The African Environmental Film Foundation is willing to take on the responsibility.

“Commercial TV companies produce wildlife films for mass entertainment in industrialized nations,” Trevor acknowledges, citing his own long list of credits, “but of the thousands produced, very few are made for Africans. No commercial TV company would be interested in financing a film which was to be shot primarily for people in Africa,” because even though the potential audience is large, the market value of the audience is not yet big enough to warrant the investment.

By the time the economic reality changes––which might be unexpectedly soon in fast-developing Kenya––whole species and habitats could be lost.

So, much as he did in 1963, dropping one promising career to start another, Trevor flew to London in early November, and then on to Hollywood, knocking on doors, seeking financing.

He is finding his project a hard sell, he admitted to ANIMAL PEOPLE. But he didn’t seem discouraged. “Anything at all worthwhile is a hard sell,” he grinned.

[The African Environmental Film Foundation may be contacted c/o POB 5352, 301 North ‘A’ Street, Oxnard, CA 93031; 805-483-2700; fax 805-486-7393; e-mail >>aeff@africaonline.co.ke<<.]

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