Trophy: NZIFF Review
Perhaps the most confrontational, yet sensitively nuanced piece of documentary making, Trophy takes you into the world of big game hunting and the arguments which lie within.
Opening with a father and son climbing into a camouflaged outpost before the son shoots a deer and concluding with the shooting of one of our species' finest, this documentary is provocative in ways you'd expect and disappointing in ways you wouldn't.
Smartly deciding to avoid any sensationalism, filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau decide to follow one hunter, Phillip, who's determined to kill the Big 5 and one South African businessman John Hume whose belief and desire is to legally flood the market with rhino horn to prevent the tide of poachers.
It could be a potent mix, and in parts of Trophy, perceptions and arguments over big game conservatism get a good solid airing, as figures point to the fact that since 1970 the world's lost 60% of its wild animals.
Equally, both Schwarz and Clusiau don't shy away from showing the horrific aftermath of a poacher's rampage - and certainly the sight of a rhino calf crying and running around in the equivalent of Greek mourning after its mother has been killed is nothing short of heart-rending and harrowing
Trophy's strength is how it flips perception of the argument and how you think you know what's going to be said, before actually giving you the other point of view. Even though it falls a little into its own trappings, with Phillip given enough rope to show his ignorance later on and Hume being given the chance to shine.
But it's entirely complex in its handling of the arguments and simply offers up no easy or obvious solutions. It merely showcases and balances the debate as well as juxtaposing the clashes of ideologies against a backdrop of a hunter shooting a restrained animal in the head. This is no easy journey, and it's refusal to adhere to a no hear no evil, see no evil approach deserves commendation.
In the back of the doco, it perhaps squanders some of the more interesting elements over Hume's crusade and desires coming back to haunt him, but one suspects this was a time constraint and perhaps it's fair to suggest this was the meatier part of the final debate - the cost, both literally and figuratively, to those involved. It's a complex and confronting doco that doesn't squander sensitivity for the salacious by any stretch of imagination.
Ultimately, Trophy is a smartly put together piece on an endlessly difficult subject. It deserves commendation for an unswerving dedication to both sides and be aware, it won't leave you with a feeling of resolution at the end, merely the feeling the debate needs to be had.