Here are some photos from the upcoming "BONOBOS: BACK TO THE WILD" and a project description. It is one of four titles opening in theatres this summer from Hannover House, and is expected to hit DVD, BluRay and Video-On-Demand during Q4 of this year.
DESCRIPTION – “BONOBOS: Back to the Wild” is the English-language adaption of French director Alain Tixier’s acclaimed documentary, “Beny: Back to the Wild” (a.k.a. “Bonobos”). The film tells the true story of naturalist Claudine André and her work in the Congo to protect the critically endangered bonobo apes. Sometimes mistakenly referred to as “pygmy Chimpanzees,” bonobos are actually a unique species of primate – and the closest cousin of all to mankind (with a shared genetic code that is 98.7% identical to humans).
Over twenty years ago, Claudine André formed the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary deep in the forest of the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Political unrest and civil war had taken a toll on the economy, and food was becoming scarce. Villagers had grown more aggressive in pursuing live game from the forest as a food source. Despite their status as a protected species, adult bonobos were being slaughtered for “bush meat” by poachers, who would often keep the baby apes for black-market sale as exotic pets. With the support of the government and local police, Claudine and her team have since rescued over 400 orphaned bonobos and placed them into protective care at her Lola Ya Bonobo Rescue Center.
The film opens with the story of one young bonobo, Beni, in the wilds of the equatorial forest with his extended bonobo tribe. Their carefree lives are soon interrupted when poachers shoot and kill Beni’s mother, and kidnap and crate him for sale. While in the custody of the poachers, Beni is abused, teased and malnourished. However, before he can be sold and shipped overseas, Claudine and a Congolese Policeman successfully locate the poachers and confiscate the young bonobo.
At Lola Ya Bonobo, Beni is nursed back to health by his new, human “mothers.” He befriends new bonobo playmates, and over the coming years he learns survival skills that will be needed when he reaches maturity. Ultimately, in a bittersweet parting from Claudine and his Lola Ya Bonobo human family, the fully-grown adult Beni is released back into the wild.
The story of Beni’s rescue, raising and release is true, and was skillfully chronicled and re-enacted by acclaimed French documentary filmmaker Alain Tixier. Shot over a six-month period in the Congo – and featuring stunning visuals – the film presents the most revealing look ever into the lives and loves of mankind’s closest cousin. Claudine André and her successful bonobo achievements have drawn comparisons to Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees and Dian Fossey’s study of gorillas.
ABOUT THE ENGLISH PRODUCTION & RELEASE – At the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2014, French producers SND-Filmes and MC4 concluded the agreement to engage U.S. producer-director Vivian Schilling to adapt the film for English-speaking territories, and agreed to a distribution venture with Hannover House, Inc. for North America. Schilling had recently completed the writing, producing and directing of an English adaptation of the animated masterpiece “Na Pude,” by Czech director-animator Jiri Barta. Retitled as “Toys in the Attic,” Schilling directed an impressive cast of English-speaking performers who breathed new life into the discarded toys and knick-knacks that were the characters of this eclectic film. Voice talent included Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack and Cary Elwes.
For “BONOBOS: Back to the Wild,” Schilling created a version which combines English narration for Claudine and Beni, with English-subtitles for some of the on camera dialogue. Her goal was to maintain the credibility of the documentary elements of the film, by preserving the original production language tracks which are in French and Congolese. The film is structured as a “docu-drama” as it contains some re-enactments of actual events and features the unique perspective of showing the world from the eyes of Beni the bonobo. But the science in the film is all factual and the events are all true. Most importantly, the film presents a powerful and emotional message that should invoke passion and support for this endangered species.
Through an arrangement with North American distributor Hannover House, Inc., the completed English-language release will be exhibited at mainstream commercial theatres as well as major Natural History Museums prior to its release to the home video, video-on-demand and television markets. 100% of the net revenues after distribution fees and releasing costs will be divided between the World Wildlife Fund and the Lola Ya Bonobo Rescue Center, to assist with their important work to save and protect the bonobo species.
TALENT & RECORDING – Schilling engaged film star REBECCA HALL (“Transcendence”, “Iron Man 3”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) for the voice-role of “Claudine” to balance the superb performance of with LUKE EVANS (“Hobbit”, “Dracula Untold”) as Beni. Luke was recorded in February at the WB DeLane Lea Studios in London. Rebecca Hall was recorded at Warner Brothers Sync Sound in New York on March 31st. The film will be mastered onto 2k D.C.P. format with Dolby surround sound for maximum impact during the Museum exhibitions. Hannover House plans to premiere the film at a special media event to be held in June in New York City, which is expected to include the attendance of Claudine André, flying in from the Congo. The film will be launched to theatres and Museums in top USA Markets commencing July 17. The home video release will include both DVD and Blu-Ray formats and is tentatively planned for October, 2015.