Years ago, a group of workers from Animal Defenders International (ADI) went to work undercover in a bunch of south American circuses, where they witnessed countless acts of animal cruelty including starvation, beating, and overcrowded cages. Through their investigation, ADI was able to get the Bolivian government to ban animal circuses all together, but only one circus voluntarily shut down and transfer their animals out of the country. The others resisted or ignored the law and ADI took it upon themselves to travel to these circuses across Bolivia, liberate their illegally incarcerated animals and make arrangements for them. This film largely deals with the various lions rescued from Bolivian circuses, and their journey to a wildlife preserve in the United States.
I guess I’ll start with my biggest problem with the film. It does get a little too preachy, with the various ADI people forcing their beliefs on the viewers rather than simply showing us what’s going on and letting us make up our own minds about these issues. Not the entire film is like this; the beginning especially strives to present information to the audience without bias by showing us a series of hidden camera videos of animals being beaten with metal rods, kicked, and choked until they obey. You might get the sense that the filmmakers are only showing you the absolute worst case scenarios they came across, but I believe most people would agree that even a handful of incidents like this are too many. As the film progresses, we get more and more people trying to tell us how we should feel about what’s going on, and it can get uncomfortable to the point of circumventing ADI’s purpose.
I honestly had never given much thought to animals living in captivity and performing for the amusement of humans. It’s fun to go to the zoo or the circus and see something exotic and unique, and I never considered what kind of living conditions these animals might have to suffer through, and while I may not be cutting a check to ADI to support their efforts, I am in favor of what they’re trying to do, and definitely have a lot more respect for them as activists than a group like PETA who throws paint on fur coats and protests the white house over President Obama killing a house fly during a television interview. ADI is comprised of passionate and professional individuals who care about the ethical treatment of animals much more than getting their faces on TV. This film isn’t a ploy for fame; it’s a way to rally support to their cause, and it’s very effective in that respect.