On Aug. 27 , the Global Film Series, run by the Office of Global Engagement , kicked off their second year with a screening of the award-winning documentary Kifaru in the Witherspoon cinema. David Hambridge, the film’s director and an NC State alum, was there to introduce the film and held a Q&A session where he took questions from Marsha Gordon, a professor of film studies at NC State, along with audience members.
When asked about the decision to screen Kifaru, David Hawley, manager of global programming for the Office of Global Engagement, cited big aspirations for NC State students.
“The fact that you can come from North Carolina and wind up making a film in rural Kenya on a subject that made worldwide news ... shows that you can leave here and do huge big things,” Hawley said. “I think it’s really cool.”
Kifaru follows the story of Sudan, the last male of the northern white rhino species, and the caretakers who look after him. Creatively, the film works well as an intimate collage of realistic emotions and complex questions which are given no easy answers. Hambridge said he was more interested in letting viewers react in their own way and then contemplate that reaction than forcing an emotional agenda on them.
The story woven through each frame of this film creates a journey that is both relatable for people watching at home and simultaneously engrossing in the environment and the dire situation presented. The film is at times inspiring and at others harrowing. The focus rests primarily on the emotional ups and downs of the caretakers, JoJo and Jacob, and how they navigate the job they have been tasked with. This allows for a more emotionally poignant and heartfelt narrative to be created, and is extremely effective in doing so.
Hambridge said the balance between the story of Sudan and the story of his caretakers was deliberate.
“I was telling a human story,” Hambridge said. “I let the characters be a vessel in which we learn about extinction ... That’s an effective way we can put ourselves in the feet of others that we’re watching on screen.”
The film embodies this idea perfectly, always developing the human characters and their struggles to care for Sudan and to grapple with the devotion they give to this animal in the face of the inevitable extinction of the species. Sudan’s death, and by extension the film which documents it, is important in the larger conversation about mass extinction and the environment as well.
“His death is really significant,” Hambridge said. “Sudan is an ambassador for all the other species that are going extinct. That’s what he was.”
Kifaru won both the Audience Award and Environmental Award at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival earlier this year, as well as Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Slamdance Film Festival, among others. During the Q&A, Hambridge said his hope is that the film will eventually be released on major streaming platforms.
After the Q&A wrapped up, David Hawley spoke about what the Global Film Series is to the Office of Global Engagement.
“The Global Film Series at NC State is a collaborative initiative to bring a variety of international and globally-focused films to campus,” Hawley said. “Interdisciplinary partners across campus select films from current releases, documentaries and classics, highlighting the joys and struggles of the global community in which we live.”
The Global Film Series is presented by the Office of Global Engagement and NC State University Libraries. All films are free and open to the community.