Melbourne filmmaker Rogue Rubin directs Lion Spy and delivers a powerfully confronting, brutal conservation documentary about the execution of the world’s great lions, their diminished population the feasting ground for an industry of glorified animal executioners.
What do you buy when you have everything? How about a lion execution holiday? No gun experience needed. A guaranteed lion kill, with an aesthetically staged, attractive fresh-kill-photograph, and a guaranteed take-home freshly-stuffed lions head—value for money.
Such is the shocking revelation and exposé of Lion Spy.
Rogue Rubin, in fear for her life and disguised as a Big Game Trophy photographer, takes us behind the corrupt curtain of lion execution holidays with footage shot from a hidden camera.
Africa on safari is cinematically breathtaking. The handheld raw footage of a photographer and filmmaker on the run as a majestic lion is slaughtered takes your breath away.
From the emotional impact of the first unforgettable hunting scene, our senses are heightened in the grip of fear and terror. All the more terrible, we realise that the fear and terror we witness is not our own but that of the hunted beast. The pace of this documentary is relentless, tearing at your heart and throat, as is the shopping gluttony of the Big Game Trophy hunters and the industry of corruption supporting them.
Simmon Wagner for Janks Reviews sat down with the Melbourne based filmmaker and documentarian Rogue Rubin to discuss Lion Spy.
I ask people, don’t shield yourself from reality. People say, well, it’s a very confronting film. And I say to them, well, reality’s very confronting, isn’t it?Rogue Rubin
Simmon: Your film is powerful, confronting, filmed in such a way to take us on a front seat journey with you. I was in tears throughout. I cannot wait to see how Australian audiences respond to your incredible film.
How did you come to the decision to make this film?
Rogue: The journey started because I wanted to film conservationists. I thought I was educated and well-read and believed in conservation and loved animals, and knew that elephants were going extinct with 50,000 left, and rhinos were going extinct with 30,000 left.
To suddenly come across a post saying lions were in danger, with 20,000 left, was really confronting. The lion is one of the most iconic animals on earth. It is one of the first animals that children recognise. It is a symbol of loyalty, trust, courage. It’s on flags. It’s regal. It’s on money. Simba’s fought Scar already and he’s ok.
Simmon: He’s the king of the jungle – he can never be hurt.
Rogue: I wanted to meet with conservationists in South Africa and discuss their plight to save the lion. I’d raise some money, come back with a great crew and film this film about conservation. Then I discover there’s this con in conservation, and I don’t know who to trust.
And I discovered most importantly, why do we not know Lions are going extinct? And then I fell down a rabbit hole.
Simmon: And then you created an alias?
Rogue: I created an alias to get closer to the problem. The group opened to me posing as a meat-eating, gun-toting republican.
Simmon: As a filmmaker, you positioned yourself to access the problem.
Rogue: As a filmmaker, the best I can do is show you. I’m not a writer. I show you. I talk to people. I listen. I give you words in images, and that’s how I educate. My goal was just to show you reality. As much as judgement comes at the end of this film, I did try to film as a documentarian. And an ethical documentarian. Without bias.
Simmon: What was that experience like to be surrounded by strangers armed with guns on your own?
Rogue: That was frightening to suddenly realise the situation you’ve put yourself in. Sometimes we jump and think later. And certainly, I’m older, and I’ve done it now. But I can look back and go, you idiot! I was getting into strange cars with strange men and guns, going to places I cannot pronounce in a country I don’t know. As women, there’s those concerns of safety. You don’t want to be raped or murdered.
Simmon: What is your greatest hope for Lion Spy.
Rogue: You had such a visceral reaction to the film, and now that you know, you can do something. I ask people not to shield themselves from reality. People say, well, it’s a very confronting film. And I say to them, well, reality’s very confronting, isn’t it?
Simmon: What can we do? I have googled and want to know how best to start and help?
I just did the math for America – 280 million cups of coffee are bought a day in America. Average that to about $4 per coffee per day, and that’s over a billion dollars. Take your $4 and donate it to one of the causes on the website. They’re places I believe are not cons. They’re in it for the right reasons.
And what we need to do. We need to help Africa because we all profit from the lion existing. We need to help the lion, and we can conserve those wildlife parks. We conserve the lion by donating $4 a year. That’s all I’m asking.