But "My Africa" is ultimately a story about people.
A young Samburu woman named Naltwasha Leripe, narrated in English by Lupita Nyong'o, takes viewers through her community's daily life, tending livestock, digging "singing" wells deep into dry riverbanks and rescuing a baby elephant orphaned by a poacher's gun.Directed by four-time Emmy winner David Allen, the project was captured with virtual reality cameras in the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Samburu County of northern Kenya at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, the first elephant orphanage in Africa owned and operated by the local community.
In a region where conservation has traditionally been pursued by wealthy outsiders, Reteti and the surrounding Northern Rangelands Trust offer a different model — one grounded in local leadership and traditional knowledge. "My Africa is about a path forward for saving the miracle that is Africa — the last place on Earth where significant numbers of the world's largest land animals still roam," said project Executive Producer and Conservation International CEO Dr M Sanjayan. "If we are going to save nature in a crowded world we need to entirely rethink how we go about it. This film shows a new way, one that unites, rather than divides, people from wildlife.
Today, conservation is not about building fences but rather breaking down barriers, so that local communities benefit when nature thrives.""Tiffany is proud to continue our support of Conservation International and further our wildlife conservation efforts with the release of My Africa," said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Chairman and President of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. "We believe people need to experience what is at risk of being lost in order to understand what needs to be protected. By transporting viewers to the majestic wildlife and natural landscapes of Kenya, we hope to inspire audiences to become more passionate advocates for conservation."
Tiffany & Co. also contributes to wildlife conservation in Africa through the company's charitable Save the Wild collection.The project comes at a critical time for East Africa's wildlife. Poaching, land degradation and climate change threaten the long-term survival of many of the region's most iconic species and strain the resources that people need to survive.
In "My Africa," viewers glimpse a path forward: a place communities work for the long-term success of the species and reap the benefits, including increased stability, opportunity and improved livelihoods. Here, in Northern Kenya, is a new economy, one that enables people and nature to thrive together.
"My Africa" is Conservation International's third virtual reality project, following "Valen's Reef" and "Under the Canopy." The virtual reality approach, says Sanjayan, is bringing the nature documentary into the 21st century and aimed at growing new levels of support for conservation. "Virtual reality can give viewers that in-depth experience that is so needed to build empathy and, we hope, inspire action."Audiences are responding and taking action. Conservation International's first two virtual reality projects have earned more than 3 million views to date. "Under the Canopy" helped the organization, with the backing of SC Johnson, protect 10 000 acres in an acre-for-acre match program to conserve the Amazon rainforest.
Those acres will now kick off the world's largest tropical reforestation effort, taking place in the Brazilian region of the Amazon. Viewers who catch the project during its run at the Tribeca Film Festival will also experience "My Africa: Elephant Keeper," a groundbreaking live-action and tactile mixed-reality experience hosted in the Virtual Arcade April 20-28.
Created by Adam May and produced by Conservation International and Vision3, the experience puts viewers in the shoes of a keeper at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary caring for the newest arrival, a "baby elephant" named Dudu.
The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary featured in "My Africa" opened in 2016 with the support of glassybaby. In 2017, glassybaby was awarded with Conservation International's Global Conservation Hero award in honor of its commitment to Reteti and their support for conservation efforts across the globe.