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Speaking For Animals On Show

Media Advisory
2 November 2009

Speaking For Animals On Show

Internationally acclaimed director joins New Zealand educators to celebrate release of new animal-focused resource book.

Award-winning director Michael Apted will take part in a free education lecture at Auckland Museum this Saturday in conjunction with the release of Animals on Show, a smart new education resource that explores and critically analyses the use of animals in entertainment.

Michael Apted, one of the world’s most respected film directors, will offer a rare insight into how filmmakers contribute to meaningful learning experiences and bring social justice issues to the fore. Apted spent two months with gorillas in the wild in Rwanda while filming Gorillas in the Mist in 1988.

Animals on Show, SAFE’s new 232-page teaching resource, includes six comprehensive lesson plans, one of which includes a focus on captive great apes. The resource draws from a wide variety of films and books including King Kong and Gorillas in the Mist, all of which explore and consider our relationship with wild and captive animals.

“Apted’s experience as a documentary filmmaker was no doubt critical to the success of Gorillas in the Mist. His ability to capture the essence of these incredible wild animals certainly would have contributed to the power and authenticity of the film,” says Ms Kriek. “We are delighted that New Zealand teachers will have a rare opportunity to hear from one of the world’s most socially conscious and sympathetic filmmakers.”

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Michael Apted is an accomplished director and three-time BAFTA award winner who has directed over 35 documentaries and films including Up Series, Agatha, Gorky Park, Nell, Class Action, Amazing Grace, Enigma, The World is Not Enough and Gorillas in the Mist. He is currently directing The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in Queensland, Australia.

Apted will be joined by international best-selling author and animal advocate Jeffrey Masson. Masson is best known for When Elephants Weep, a book that explores the emotional lives of animals and which has revolutionised the way we look at and think about animals. Masson will discuss how learning about animals can change our perspective on the world.

“There is increasing attention paid to empathy, and especially to teaching children to be empathic to non-human animals. Teaching children sympathy, empathy and compassion for animals, including those animals kept in zoos and circuses here in New Zealand, is an essential part of education,” says Professor Masson.

SAFE is delighted to offer this exclusive free public lecture that focuses on developing positive attitudes and values towards animals through classroom teaching and learning.

Animals on Show’s novel and revolutionary approach to teaching and learning, which focuses on our values and attitudes towards animals, has excited teachers around the country. “The Values and wider considerations of the 'new' curriculum suggest that the material in Animals on Show would be both useful and of high interest,” explains Ewen Middleton, HOD English from Rosehill College.

“This is an excellent publication – well set out and relevant and well researched resources. Brilliant,” says Heather Bryant, Assistant HOD English from Whangarei Girls High School”.

Speaking for Animals on Show will be at held in the Auditorium in the Auckland Museum at 3.30pm on Saturday, 7 November 2009.

Visit for information on the event or visit for more information on the Animals & Us programme or the Animals on Show resource.

Background information:

Gorillas in the Mist is an amazing film and must've been difficult to shoot logistically.
Incredibly so! I don't know what I was doing, actually. (laughs) I was trying to build a film about the relationship between a Hollywood movie star and wild animals.

I had this script that had all these scenes between Dian and the gorillas that were meaningless. Not that they didn't work, but I just didn't know how they we were going to shoot them. It was made very clear to me early on, which is why I got the job, there was none of this Greystoke stuff with actors in ape suits or animatronics.

This was going to have to be based on wildlife material. When you think about it now, but I didn't at the time, I can come up with nothing! So we spent eight weeks shooting Sigourney with wild animals, then without her. We weren't allowed to do anything to these animals, like prod them, or manipulate them in any way. If they decided to attack us, they attacked us, you know. Sometimes we never even found them! We just had to chance to luck. If we got some key shots, then we built the scenes around those shots. We also had two actors in suits that we used for the more difficult shots.

But for most of it, I was flying blind. I never saw anything I shot for the eight weeks we were in Rawanda. The footage had to be sent back to London to be processed, then back to me in the field. Once we did all our wildlife shots, then we went to Kenya, where we did all the animatronics and started tidying things up. I shot the rest of the film incredibly quickly. But it was a pure act of faith that we got the shots of her with these frighteningly huge animals and could then assemble them into a story that would be coherent. I often do classes on the film, where I talk about how I use my documentary experience in features. One of the reasons it all worked was Sigourney. She was just terrific.

As reported in Michael Apted: The Hollywood interview.


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