Is it my Western impatience, or the urgency of wanting to tell this story, or film-maker wanting to work impatience, or little kid wanting adventure impatience, or is it the confluence of all those? I’m not certain, but ten days of quarantine, while we make certain neither Tracy or I carried in some pathogen, is a test of patience.
It became a greater test yesterday as the orangutan rescue team went out to check on an orangutan reported trapped in an area being cleared for… wait for it,… what else,… palm oil. What they found we later saw in the photos (deep breath, patience) was a small, maybe four year old orangutan. The little red ape was too small to be immediately release, so returned to the Yayasan IAR center for a couple weeks observation before release. Not that this was the first, nor will it be the last, rescue. It wasn’t even a crazy dramatic rescue, but it was a missed opportunity. As Tracy and I stared at the images on the back of the camera on which the action was recorded, we both kept looking at one another with that – ok, deep breath, patience – look.
The quarantine period, ten days once you’re in Indonesia (not just here at the YIAR Center) is necessary, and I fully support Dr. Karmele Llaño Sanchez’s decision to enforce it; no one is the exception, not even her. It, along with the other list of medical requirements she enforces, is why I hold her standards up as the model I wish all sanctuaries, with any of the great apes, here or in Africa, would institute. There’s constant discussion in the media and medical circles about disease transfer from animals to humans (zoonosis), but far less emphasis is placed on the transfer from humans to wildlife. Think of the laundry list of diseases we humans have shipped, flown and cough across this planet. With great apes we share so much of our genetics, perhaps non-human great apes are the ones to most fear a global pandemic brought on by us.
So, ok, deep breath, we can be patient, only three more days — after all we have that luxury, that newly rescued four year old, whether facing palm oil or pathogen doesn’t have patience on its side.
After weeks of digging through old files, clips, interviews, and oh so much B-roll of great apes, we have just released our new pre-trailer for the Before They’re Gone film. And before I type another word – huge thanks to my co-creator Tracy MacDonald and editor Matt Zadrow for their endless hours – great work!
We’re only a couple weeks out from starting work in Borneo and already I feel like I have been filming there for months, a couple years actually. I have been reviewing everything created on my last trips — like cramming for a final exam — I want every image in my head before starting to film once again. My last trip to Ketapang and Karmele’s orangutan sanctuary was in late 2015, fires were ravaging the region, and orphans pouring in. The work then became the inspiration for wanting to tell Karmele Llaño Sanchez’s story. Like a handful of women across the great ape world, everyday I watched her deal with the crisis at her doorstep, the more I was in awe of this slight Spanish transplant. The more I watched, the more she reflected those other extraordinary women I had briefly come to know: Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.
The pre-trailer (Watch it here) begins to hint at the story we are trying to tell, and why it needs to be told now. But since little about it was filmed with Before They’re Gone initially in mind, there is so much more work to be created. For that Tracy and I are off to Borneo, to begin, before both the apes and these remarkable women are gone.
— Gerry Ellis
Packing for Borneo to begin first filming of Karmele Llaño Sanchez for the film and today is Earth Day 2019 — a week before flying out, thinking a lot about how those two things are one.
The last time I was in Borneo with Karmele the island was on fire — going up in flames. Literally the third largest island in the world was an inferno, a toxic witch’s brew of smoke and flames. Devastating fires, the result of a collision between political and corporate collusion, and El Niño had inflame a disaster long anticipated.
In the real world that meant us, and apes like us, were dying. In the three short months between late August and November of 2015, thousands of forest and peatland fires raged out of control, choking the entire region in a thick, toxic haze. When the haze cleared orangutan sanctuaries, like that in Ketapang, founded by Karmele and her husband Argitoe Ranting, were at crisis level with orphan victims, most were babies. When I arrived in September neither I nor they knew what to expect over the next month — definitely none of us expected the greatest man-made ecological disaster.
There is no El Niño in this April, but fires have already ignited in the peat forests on the neighboring island of Sumatra, inflaming worry in Borneo.
— Gerry Ellis
Join us for a captivating talk as award-winning wildlife photographer and filmmaker Gerry Ellis talks about his equipment while in the field; why and how he films based on subject, destination and need. He will discuss how he uses his content online and for social media to reach a wider audience, spreading the word about the survival of great apes. Hear interesting field stories and have an opportunity to ask him questions about his work in the field. You won’t want to miss this one!
This program will have two duplicate sessions: 10-11am or 1-2pm. After each session, Gerry will join Mark Toal with Lumix in-store with hands-on equipment demos.
Sponsored by Pro Photo Supply and Lumix.
Pro Photo Supply Event Center
1801 NW Northrup Ave, Portland, Oregon 97209
(The following is a two-minute trailer video interview with our Founder — thanks to Pro Photo Supply)
It’s been a while since our last video, but we’re back! A couple of months ago, I sat down with local documentary photographer Gerry Ellis to talk about his work and motivations. Gerry has spent more than two decades working as a photographer, filmmaker, and writer around the globe for numerous high-profile clients. He is also the founder of GLOBIO, a children’s education non-profit. From his Great Ape Diaries project to documenting the Gulf Coast cleanup, he has a wealth of photographic experience worth sharing.
The the full interview is 40 minutes here, but the 2 minute preview below should give you a nice taste of what to expect.