LION SPY – Review by T. J. Callahan

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Lion Spy: Lifestyles of the Rich and Bored

Statistics estimate there are only 20,000 wild lions left in Africa. 25 African countries have no lions left. What is happening to the king of beasts? That’s the question a young female filmmaker and activist asked herself in 2014 and she set out to find the reason why. Her brutally honest documentary, Lion Spy, is the result.

That filmmaker was Joni “Rogue” Rubin. Born in South Africa, but living and working in Australia, Rubin returned to her birth country to go undercover to expose the big-game trophy hunting industry and the men who claim they are conservationists not pleasure killers.

Subtitled The Hunt for Justice, Lion Spy opens with Rubin applying for false credentials to gain access to some of South Africa’s professional hunting outfitters and, ultimately, to go on safari with them as a photography intern. Once accepted into the world of mostly American and European men, Rubin bravely chronicled the results of numerous “sporting trips” over six years to reveal the cruel truth.

I am not a hunter, but I understand the need for it in controlled situations. When there’s overpopulation destroying property and/or putting other wildlife in danger it’s necessary to thin the ranks during special “seasons”, not year round. Many hunters feed their families or the community with those kills. Game reserves claim their safaris bring much needed tourism to impoverished areas and the monies they charge individuals to hunt goes to conservation. But plundering only for personal gain is a horse of a different color. That’s why we need films like Lion Spy to bring these atrocities to light.

Despite having a runtime of just over an hour, Lion Spy is not an easy watch. One minute a giraffe is regally standing tall eating leaves from the top of a tree and the next minute he’s felled by a bullet and propped up for a photo. A majestic lion is tracked for hours until the beast thinks he’s hidden. He’s not. Rubin doesn’t “airbrush “ anything. It’s her mission to save the lions and other potentially endangered creatures and the raw footage may be the spark for new legislation.

Lion Spy is described as part thriller, part expose. It’s also a conduit for change. As the documentary explains, we all must act now because our choices are going to affect the future. Rubin suggests skipping a coffee to save a lion by donating that money to a number of worthy animal conservation sites. These charities are listed at the films website

A strong stomach, Kleenex and a heart are prerequisites for Lion Spy. My husband, Ricky, a Veterinarian, gives this film two teary eyes open, Also a thumbs up.

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T. J. Callahan

Texas Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster, T.J. Callahan switched gears from traffic and news reporting as a member of the Marconi Award winning Hudson and Harrigan Show on KILT in Houston to directing you to the right movie theatre as the resident film critic for Houston Radio Platinum and 101 Gold , Southern New Mexico's favorite radio station. Since 2009, T.J. has exclusively critiqued premiering films on such stations as KRMD in Shreveport, La., KILT in Houston, WCKT in Sarasota, Fla., as well as on The Chris X Blayney Show on The Liberty Eagle Radio Network and The Sam Malone Show on KNTH in Houston. Entertaining and informative, T.J. gets right to the point and lets you know whether the latest epic is worth your time. Listen to her Friday and Saturdays on and on Friday afternoons on the Leslie T. Travis Show on KVLC FM in Las Cruces. T.J. is also a proud member of the Critics Choice Association and the Houston Film Critics Society. She truly believes everything in life is one degree of Blazing Saddles.