‘No Fear No Favor’: A fight for survival in the place where community and wildlife meet | Women & Film

Posted 4/22/21

The camera pans across still waters, and then up to reveal a calm sky. Vivid pinks and soft blues mingle, painting a picturesque sunset.

You wonder to yourself, “How can anything be more …

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‘No Fear No Favor’: A fight for survival in the place where community and wildlife meet | Women & Film

Posted

The camera pans across still waters, and then up to reveal a calm sky. Vivid pinks and soft blues mingle, painting a picturesque sunset.

You wonder to yourself, “How can anything be more beautiful, more peaceful? How can anything bad happen here?”

The lens searches, spying their faces. And it isn’t until their dark eyes come into focus that you see it.

It is captured in the desperate eyes of the antelope, hidden in the deep tear stains of the cheetah, embedded in the leathery ravines of the elephant’s hide.

The animals tread lightly for they’ve seen the men with guns and they’ve heard the blasts of bullets. They’ve felt the heat from the bush fires and they know the destruction firsthand.

Poaching is the illegal hunting, and often killing, of wild animals, usually for rare products like ivory, fur, organs, bones. It is fueling the extinction crisis, eliminating species, destroying habitats, and in turn, creating an imbalance in the world.

Director Mirra Bank’s documentary, “No Fear No Favor,” illuminates Africa’s poaching crisis and those who live in the midst of it everyday, on the forefront of conservation – fighting to protect wildlife and defend the environment for future generations.

“What became the mission of the film was a big dimension of poaching prevention is community involvement and engagement,” Bank explained.

Following local men and women who combat the illegal wildlife trade, the film examines poaching from a very intimate point of view and from the perspective of the people who live where community and wilderness meet.

“Although I didn’t know it when I began,” Bank said, “what the film ultimately became was an exploration of how people living on the cusp of wilderness become, in many ways, the frontline and the natural conservators.”

That became the heart of the story, she explained.

Shot over two years in Kenya, Namibia, as well as Zambia’s Kafue National Park, the film’s focus is on community conservancies that work to protect wildlife and the region’s wilderness.

“Local stakeholders, people who live where community meets wilderness, are both the population from whom poachers are usually recruited and, on the other side, they’re also the most vigilant and the most aware of how to protect wildlife,” the director noted.

These residents live in the interface with wildlife. They understand who’s doing the poaching and they have an ear to the ground, a community connection to prevent it from happening.

These conservancies not only act as stewards of the wildlife, they also contribute to communities’ rights and they work to strengthen local voices. They return eco-tourism profits to the people while generating sustainable livelihoods, especially for women.

Women who become involved, either as wildlife police officers, in research, or in tourism, have equal footing with men. Environmental work becomes a big incentive in terms of women’s education and economic empowerment.

“I felt a very strong identification with the women who chose to do this because it’s not an easy decision for them to make,” Bank said.

Along with illuminating the people on the front lines of this fight, the film also gives viewers a peek into the world of the ivory and Pangolin trades.

“One of the things about getting up close and personal with a story like this is it demystifies it in one sense,” the director said.

“I think [poaching] is something we all have to understand on an economic level as well as on an emotional level.”

There is hunting as a means of sustaining life; however, poaching is the slaughtering of animals for parts, selling off those parts for profits.

“You have to protect and sustain the animals themselves and the environments they live in or you’re going to lose the animals,” Bank said.

“There’s nothing that’s without consequence once we start impacting the environment,” she added.

“I think every single film I’ve made has changed my life.”

“This one was enormously important to me and also demanded absolutely the most from me.”

She shot “No Fear No Favor” and did most of the production work herself.

“In order to do the kind of shooting we did, this sort of very intimate, one-on-one filming… I don’t know how I would have done it any other way,” Bank recalled

She said it was tremendously rewarding and she learned so much.

“Being on foot with animals like lions and rhino and elephants,” she explained, “being very close to them, as intimate with them as the people who were caring for them, is something you never forget.”

“I hope everybody comes away with a hunger for that from seeing the film.”

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