Eeya is the Baka word for elephant, an animal that is an important figure in the lives of the indigenous Baka tribes of Cameroon. Unfortunately, many Baka find themselves caught in the middle of Central Africa’s forest elephant poaching epidemic. Some are drawn into poaching gangs, while others are working for conservation groups.
Interview with Director/Producer Mariah Wilson
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Eeya came out of a larger project I am working on about elephant poaching in the Congo Basin, which is called Silent Forests. For this feature length documentary, I am already following five subjects who are fighting to protect forest elephants in Central Africa. I thought that adding the Baka tribe story would make it a little too ‘crowded” feeling for 90 minutes. However, I was really intrigued by how indigenous groups like the Baka are impacted by poaching and conservation in this area, so I decided to make a separate short film just about that - and that’s how Eeya came to be.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch this film to learn about one of the ways in which the elephant poaching epidemic impacts human beings as well as animals. While there has been a lot of media focus on savannah elephants in eastern and southern Africa, very little light has been shed on the forest elephant crisis in central Africa. After a 2011 forest survey revealed that more than half the forest elephant population has been lost to poaching in just the last decade, there has been a concerted attempt to try and save those that remain.
Eeya explores this story through the eyes of an indigenous Baka man in southern Cameroon. “Eeya” is the Baka word for elephant; it is an animal that is a very important figure to the Baka. Unfortunately, many Baka tribes find themselves caught in the middle of the Congo Basin’s forest elephant poaching epidemic. Some are drawn into poaching gangs, while others are working for conservation groups. We take a walk through the forest with Bosso Andre and his son Gaston to learn more about how the illegal ivory trade has impacted the Baka way of life.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I think Eeya touches on the universal theme of how indigenous communities are often mistreated and overlooked. The Baka are essential to elephant conservation, and the more they are included in anti-poaching efforts, the better it will be for everyone. Their knowledge of this landscape and the forest elephant terrain is unparalleled.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
We first cut this as a work sample for the larger film Silent Forests, and then realized it made a nice stand-alone piece, so we then polished it and finalized it so it can be released on its own
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Eeya has only screened at one other film festival so far, the 40th annual International Wildlife Film Festival in Montana, where we had a good Q+A afterwards. I have also received a separate correspondence from a group called Survival International, who noticed my work on Eeya, Silent Forests, and another previous film about poaching and wanted to make sure I knew about their work in the area of indigenous rights, and informed me of allegations of abuse by WWF funded eco-guards towards the Baka in Cameroon, in the name of conservation.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It was certainly disheartening to learn about these accusations of abuse from Survival International. As I told them, during my time there I saw only respectful treatment and inclusion of the Baka in conservation programs spearheaded by WWF. But I completely agree with their sentiment that conservation must include indigenous communities in Central Africa, since they are the ones most intimately tied to the flora and fauna of the Congo Basin. Tribal people’s rights should be at the forefront of the environmental movement.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The main goal of being on We Are Moving Stories is to both educate and inform people about the issues that are discussed in Eeya. Many people have probably never heard of the Baka tribes, so I hope to bring some awareness about them and their unique relationship to the Congo Basin forests, and how ivory trafficking has negatively impacted their lives and the surrounding ecosystem.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Given its short length, I think distribution platforms for Eeya would be limited to online sites. I'm currently in touch with a couple of places about possibly acquiring Eeya for their web-based doc collections. We have also submitted to a number of festivals throughout the world, and would certainly welcome any opportunity to screen at festivals or other events in the next year!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would love for Eeya to bring more awareness about the Baka and their relationship with the forest elephant, and how they have essentially been caught in the crossfire of ivory poaching in the Congo Basin.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How can Central African countries more effectively integrate indigenous groups like the Baka into their conservation and anti-poaching plans and programs?
Would you like to add anything else?
You can check out our FB page, which will be updated with future screenings and links to any online distribution - https://www.facebook.com/eeyafilm/
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are continuing to work on the feature documentary that Eeya was derived from, Silent Forests, which will be a character-driven and cinematic look at the fight for the future of the forest elephant and other Congo Basin wildlife.
A short synopsis of the film: After a 2011 survey revealed that more than half the Central African forest elephant population has been lost to poaching in the last decade, there has been a concerted effort throughout the Congo Basin to save those that remain. SILENT FORESTS will explore this story through a range of dynamic subjects; including Cameroon’s first female eco-guard, a grassroots wildlife law enforcement group, a Congolese biologist studying elephant communication, and a team of anti-poaching sniffer dogs led by a Czech conservationist.
Interview: June 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Eeya is a short documentary about a Baka tribe in Cameroon, and their relationship with the forest elephant in the Congo Basin.
Eeya is the Baka word for elephant, an animal that is an important figure in the lives of the indigenous Baka tribes of Cameroon. Unfortunately, many Baka find themselves caught in the middle of Central Africa’s forest elephant poaching epidemic. Some are drawn into poaching gangs, while others are working for conservation groups. We take a walk through the forest with Bosso Andre and his son Gaston to learn more about how the illegal ivory trade has impacted the Baka way of life
Length: 5 minutes
Director: Mariah Wilson
Producer: Mariah Wilson
Cinematographer/Editor: Zebediah Smith
About the writer, director and producer:
For over ten years MARIAH WILSON has produced series for PBS, National Geographic, A&E, Animal Planet, Discovery, History Channel, Weather Channel, MSNBC, VICE Media, Vocativ, and The Smithsonian Institution. She has also directed REVEALING HATE (2010, “Courageous Filmmaking” award - Durango Film Festival) which explores the white supremacist movement in America, and VOLUNTEER (2012, Honolulu Film Award Winner) which follows an eco-volunteering journey in Uganda and Fiji. Her most recent films are KAZIRANGA (Humane Society ACE Award/Grant) about the rhino poaching crisis in India, and EEYA, about indigenous Baka tribes in Cameroon who are caught in the crossfire of poaching (World Premiere: 40th International Wildlife Film Festival). She is currently in production on SILENT FORESTS (Telluride Mountainfilm Commitment Grant, Rogovy Fund recipient, Eastman Fund recipient, NYSCA, IFP Spotlight on Docs), about forest elephant poaching in central Africa.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): film festival directors, buyers, journalists
Social media handles:
Where can I see it in the next month? Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, July 10, 2017