November Issue 2015

By | Movies | Published 9 years ago

Spectacularly shot in the Kenyan wilderness of the 1960s, based on the book by Joy Adamson, Born Free opens to a haunting, timeless and Oscar-winning score. In the movie, Joy narrates the unique love that she and her husband, George Adamson, had for a lioness named Elsa. In this highly acclaimed film of its time, the lives of this British couple, who ran a wild-life sanctuary, were enacted by real-life husband and wife (Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna).

In an unfortunate confrontation, George, a game warden, is forced to kill a charging lion and its mate in self-defense, only to discover they were protecting their three small cubs. He brings them home to Joy, who falls in love with them instantly, especially the weakest one whom she names Elsa. As they grow older and too rowdy to handle, two of the cubs are shipped to the Rotterdam Zoo, but Joy cannot bear to part with Elsa.

Joy narrates how she raises Elsa to maturity, completely spoiling and domesticating her, only to realise the dangers when Elsa, in a mood to play, causes a large herd of elephants to stampede and run rampant across villages. Warned by their boss that Elsa needs to be sent to a zoo since she lacks any natural skills to fend for herself in the wild, Joy is adamant to do the opposite. She and George attempt to do something that has never been done before – to re-introduce Elsa to the wild and awaken her basic instincts because “she was born free and deserves to live free.”

The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the untamed wilderness and carries a strong lesson in wild-life conservation. The cinematography gives you a feel of the last glory days of African wildlife and its authentic villages and locales. As a book, Born Free was a bestseller in the 1960s and remained hugely popular when the movie was released. This year celebrates the movie’s 50th anniversary and it is being screened again worldwide at different forums. With a good quality DVD, it is one of those films that can be enjoyed and experienced with the whole family, especially the kids.

This movie review was published in Newsline’s November 2015 issue. 

The writer is working with the Newsline as Assistant Editor, she is a documentary filmmaker and activist.