Interview with Sir David Attenborough, Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill for Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee is a Disney Nature production which is a charming and engaging look at life of the Chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast Rainforest. Following one young newborn, Oscar, the film follows his first few months as as he tackles the trials and tribulations of young life.
We spoke to Sir David Attenborough, renowned for his nature documentaries and Directors of the film Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill about the movie and why they felt it was so important to protect chimpanzees.
DA – The need for their protection is greater than it’s ever been, in the last twenty years 90% have gone, and you can show absolutely that the reason that 90% have gone is that they have not been protected. If we can get more guards, we know that we can save the chimpanzees of the Tai Forest.
Is that why you decided to make the film?
AF If you don’t know about something you can’t care about something. Every generation needs to know about the natural world. The human population is becoming increasingly urbanised, most people will never see a chimpanzee, will never go to the rainforest – and we feel passionately that there is still a real need to make beautiful wildlife films. What we hoped is we could tell a story that’s as engaging as any Hollywood Scriptwriter.
Did you learn anything new when making the film?
ML – The thai forest in the Ivory Coast is unusual in that Chimpanzees have been known to adopt orphans before, but never an alpha male and never successfully so it was a complete revelation. One of the take homes is that our closest cousins are far closer to us than any of us would like to admit. You just can’t help but see personalities within these chimpanzees because they are there.
You’ve talked about the filming, what challenges came with making the film?
AF – Physically it was very very demanding, our cameraman would go 12 hour days in that forest in 100% humidity and he used to come back and say if i’ve got one shot today i’ll be very very happy. Wildlife film making is very much about patience and this film was almost made by erosion, gradually day by day getting a shot here and a shot there and throughout the process the main role for mark and i was seeing how the process was coming together, we were looking at the rushes every night, we were creating the film and just trying to say to martin this is where we need to spend our efforts now, but the physical effort of Martin and our other camera men went through, to me is the hardest job that anyone has to do and we’ve been at it for not as long as David but we’ve been at it for a while.
DA – The thing that doesn’t come out in the film and what you don’t show is that Chimps attention is very quickly taken away and when they decided to through the forest, boy they go through the forest, you have to pick up your cameras and all your gear run after them. Without any question the couple of weeks I spent with them were some of the most exhausting weeks of my life! You ran and ran and ran and there’s one further thing with chimps you don’t see from the film. You have a camp and when the chimps evening comes they start making nests and the camp may easily be 3 hours away and you’ve gotta stay with them and see them settle in, after being there all day. You then have 2 or 3 hours to get back to camp which is bad enough but the point is if you don’t get back to them before they have breakfast you’ve lost them, and you may lose contact with them for 2 or 3 weeks, so 3 hours before they get up you have to get up and go all the way back to them.
You mentioned that the habitat and the Chimpanzee’s themselves are endangered by deforestation and poachers, did you come across any instances of this when filming?
ML - We did actually, several times when filming we did hear gunshots nearby which was quote a worry. The biggest worry was when the civil war came into play and it became so dangerous for the scientific researchers to stay out there that the camp was effectively evacuated. When Christof and the scientists returned they weren’t sure what they were going to find as the presence of the scientists kept the poachers away.
Was there any point when you thought you wanted to give up on this project?
AF – Well our camera man David revealed to us a diary entry that basically said I’m filming moments i’m not filming sequences, this is the toughest job i’ve ever had, this is a nightmare.
DA – And he is one of the most experienced camera men in the business so if Martin felt like that he
ML – And he’s usually so positive!
Chimpanzee is a truly engaging film that will enthral and charm you. See it when it is released in the UK on 3rd of May