“Lion Ark” makes its North Carolina premiere two days after another animal rescue

"Lion Ark," a documentary that follows the rescue and airlift of 25 former circus lions, made its North Carolina premiere Saturday in Durham. The producer and director had just returned from Peru after another rescue of a bear named Dominga.

photo courtesy of "Lion Ark" and ADI International—photo courtesy of "Lion Ark" and ADI International
Tim Phillips with a lion cub during an ADI International rescue.

“Lion Ark,” the shocking, action-filled documentary of a harrowing rescue and airlift of 25 former circus lions premiered on Saturday in Durham at Full Frame Theater. Movie-goers were treated to a special Q&A with director and producer Tim Phillips and Jan Creamer, who just two days before were on another rescue mission.Friday night, they flew in from Peru after traveling high in the Andes to rescue a spectacled bear named Dominga by taking her to an Animal Defenders International (ADI) sanctuary in the Peruvian forest. It only seemed fitting the two fly in after such a rescue. Their critically-acclaimed film “Lion Ark” follows the story and daring feats that must be accomplished to save animals.On July 1, 2009, Bolivia banned all animals in circuses. While other countries had started the trend by banning wild animals, Bolivia included domestic animals in the law citing that this use of animals and the fact that many were beaten and abused for training “constitutes an act of cruelty.” The law was followed by an investigation by ADI, and aside from finding a shocking amount of animal abuse within the industry, there was also the revelation that many circus operators were killing animals they no longer needed.Creamer also serves as ADI’s International President and in 2009 called the law “groundbreaking.” “Lion Ark” was a story that served best as a visual representation by infusing narrative, conversation, reactions, and more action and adventure than a typical documentary.On the festival circuit, the film won 11 awards and an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding International Motion Picture. Reel Talk called it “the feel-good movie of the year!” and the New York Times said, “Refreshing.”Director Tim Phillips notes, “We wanted people to experience a frontline animal rescue, both the challenges and the joy. The film tackles a serious issue, but is exciting and leaves people with a smile on their face, knowing they can make a difference as they see the lives of these animals transform.”During the Q&A, Phillips and Creamer discussed their latest rescue, Operation Spirit of Freedom. In Peru and Colombia, 100 wild animals were saved from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade. The rescue mission included a massive airlift of 33 lions from South American circuses to Africa.After a successful rescue mission of Dominga, Phillips said that during their arrival to Durham, “We may look a little exhausted as we will have been sleeping in cars for Dominga the bear’s move to her new home, but that’s how we often look in Lion Ark!”The rescue included two days of moving the almost completely bald bear through the mountains, and then more days on boat along the Madre de Dios River to her new home.”As a treat for the Durham audience, they will get to see Lion Ark and be the first to see images of this latest rescue. It’s also a reminder that the work featured in Lion Ark is ongoing,” said Phillips.