By: Judy Shields
Hollywood, California (The Hollywood Times) 4/17/2018 – “I am so excited to have been recognized by KCET and to have the opportunity to come out on a wide platform and getting the nationwide release that Abramorama is giving us.” Ashley Bell, director of “Love and Bananas: An Elephant Story” told The Hollywood Times.
This #EarthDay, discover the beauty of Asian Elephants and learn how their future is in jeopardy. Love And Bananas comes to theaters April 22, 2018 and tells the unlikely story of how a 70-year old Asian Elephant named Noi Na was rescued from a Thai trekking camp. Find a screening near you at
Elephant rescues in Thailand are rare, unpredictable and often life threatening. Join a team of extraordinary people who race against the clock to save Noi Na, a 70-year old captive Thai trekking elephant in the new documentary Love And Bananas. Learn more at www.loveandbananas.com
Ashley Bell and a team of elephant rescuers, led by world-renowned Asian elephant conservationist Sangdeaun Lek Chailert, embark on a daring 48-hour mission, 500 miles across Thailand to rescue a 70-year old captive blind Asian elephant and bring her to freedom. “Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story” is a heartwarming and hopeful film that exposes the plight of Asian elephants and the people who work tirelessly to save them.
Interview with Ashley Bell:
THT: “How exciting to have your movie première at the KCET Environmental Film Festival this Friday night.”
Ashley Bell: “It’s very surreal to think that a couple of years ago I was literally on the back of a truck with an 8,000 pound elephant covered in mud racing her to freedom and the fact that we are having the opportunity to have our LA première on the Sony Pictures lot with KCET, is a huge honor for me.”
THT: “I was lucky enough to preview this movie this weekend and I want to know how nervous were you riding in the back of that truck?”
Ashley: “Pretty nervous (with laughter). It hit me like a wave when that journey began with the severity of the situation that we were in. Noi Na got heat stroke on the truck and almost tipped it over. When the voyage began we were barreling down the super highway in Thailand with this huge elephant that was very scared, the truck got very quiet and our conservationist Lek got quite. When I saw her get quite, I knew that things were getting into a very sensitive and dangerous zone. The way she read Noi Na’s body language was one of the most fascination things I have ever witnessed. She explained to the camera what was happening with her. Noi Na refused to eat, she wasn’t drinking water, and she kept a small piece of corn tucked inside her mouth. She is partially blinded, so she can see out one eye, but here head was moving in a phonetic way, because she was trying to understand what was going on. For all Noi Na knew, that truck meant she was going to another logging camp, trekking facility or for more service. Who was she to know she was on her way to freedom.”
“What separated Lek and I from Noi Na were just two beams. I put my hand on the beam and Lek took my hand and moved it to the other side just in case Noi Na would make a surge to go forward. Lek did not want my hand to get broken in two. It was in that moment that it dawned upon me, my God this is just another day for this elephant, this is the life of a captive service elephant and this is what is normal for them. It was very quiet on those moments on the truck. We had 22 hours ahead of us throughout the night.”
THT: “How did the making of this documentary movie make you feel?”
Ashley: “Incredibly humble and incredibly grateful. I’ve known about Lek’s work as a kid growing up and before I met her, I had heard of this rock star elephant whisper/conservationist. When I met her, I was pretty tongue-tied, because Lek is on the frontline with every single day, in grave danger, fighting to protect this species and she trusted us, she let us accompanying her on an elephant rescue. She took us under her wings in the sanctuary and she showed us what happens when you take the chains off and let an elephant be an elephant.
She regards elephants like people, by saying that, she treats them with dignity and respect. How severely Asian elephants are abused and broken, you can feel them with love. I am a very skeptical person, but I saw it with my own eyes and what I saw were miracles. Our job, when she trusted us with her undercover footage, her undercover story, we were allowed to interview people in Thailand, that opened up to us, our job was to get it right before it was too late.”
THT: “Has your movie been at other film festivals?”
Ashley: “We had our world première at the DC Environmental Film Festival and you hope there are more than just 15 people. When we got there it was sold out and the audience was filled with kids and teenagers and that really was the audience we all strove to make the film for and make it feel safe for kids to come see”.
“Kids are super savvy and everything must be completely authentic, so we wanted to take people on an action packed rescue, and we are happy it landing with a younger audience.”
THT: “This movie brought me to tears and it was even hard to get through this interview, but okay, I did cry talking with Ashley.
She was kind enough to console me and to tell me she had that same reaction as well.”
Ashley: “When you know better, you do better. I was born and raised a vegetarian and always thought I was eco aware and environmentally savvy or just aware, an aware human. I saw as a teenager in US Weekly, some celebrity going on an elephant ride and I said, ‘oh, I want to do that,’ and my Dad said at the time ‘oh do you know what it takes to get them there?’ I didn’t and there is a saying now with every single environmentalist that they have a fur jacket in their closet, that is just a saying and it’s a thought that when you know better you do better. Nobody really knows the truth about elephant rides, elephant paintings, behind elephant polo or just seeing elephants in service. I am so unbelievably moved by your reaction because that was my aha moment. I have to use the resources I have at my disposable to do something. That was partnering with Change For Balance Productions and setting out to making a documentary about this.”
THT: “When did you actually finish the movie?”
Ashley: “About one year ago this month. We filmed for two weeks in Thailand and some in Cambodia. Going in we knew the story that we wanted to tell and we wanted to take people on an elephant rescue. That was always going to be the heart of the film. So that rescue took place over 22 hours and once we got there, via a Facebook message from Lek. I had about 48 hours to assemble a crew of three guys and take a redeye flight over to Thailand. When we woke up the next night we were on the back of that truck heading down to the rescue and it happened quickly because we waited two and half years for an elephant rescue to happen. There were false starts where elephants were up for rescue, but before Lek could get to them, they had been sold off to do circuses. We joke and say we had like a baby bag by the door because as soon as we go the call we have to leave right then.”
THT: “Can you image Lek, this tiny woman a true elephant whisper?”
Ashley: “Can you believe it. Like getting any type of tap from an elephant’s knee felt like whiplash. I felt save around and under the elephants because I was with Lek and we are warned to give space to the elephants on the sanctuary land because the elephants are under a great deal of psychological stress and physical impairment. Because Lek is their mom, she is the matriarch of their society. Lek is the elephant whisper. I have never seen anybody as effortlessly, constantly give energy forward. I mean that in the sense of it’s just so fluid, that she is continuing to contribute to the animals, the environment and the betterment of the society that she is in. She does that without break and without hesitation.
She sleeps about four hours a night in a room above her office with a bed full of dogs and a bunch of dogs on the ground and a husband.”
THT: “Are the dogs good with the elephants, is it therapeutic for both the dogs and elephants?”
Ashley: “They are great together. It is insane, you see this herd of about 90 elephants roaming around the sanctuary and 400 rescue dogs. A herd of buffalo and a couple of pigs. Everybody is in perfect harmony and Lek is on her bike riding around and it is Utopia!”
“When Lek starts a sanctuary, she makes sure to take care of the whole surrounding village. She is providing school for all the local kids, she provides satellite and medical equipment, running water and she also provides jobs for the local villagers so that they don’t need to illegally poach and have a steady income on the sanctuary land. When she loads in that model, the whole area flourishes. Both the villagers, the environment, the forest that they are in and the sanctuary they are in. She was stuffing the bananas with de-worming medication to take care of the elephants as she was doing an interview. Then she stocked piled a mound of clothes and toys that she brought from the main village to give to all the villagers and their children. As she was doing this, someone complimented her shoes and she took them off her feet and gave them to this woman who had no shoes. That was day one!”
“If we all had one percent of Lek we could do something great with the world…”
“If truly been an honor to tell this story and our only job was to get it right.”
“There are around 415,000 African elephants left in the world, but only about 40-45,000 Asian elephants and they are endangered species of the two. In some parts of southern China, they are functionally extinct, meaning they don’t have a herd big enough to properly reproduce. We are there. I have been asked ‘why should I care about an Asian elephants, what can these elephants do for me?’ Which is a painful question because I wouldn’t think that you would have to explain the importance of a species by justifying their life on earth.”
“Asian elephants are a keystone species. Their existence provides environment, food and shelter and a whole ecosystem for a multitude of other species that they live with. They have actually linked Asian elephants to helping fight climate change. When an elephant goes through a jungle, they carve their path and eat a bunch of food and when they produce waste, out sprouts a kind of new jungle and they found that areas with Asian elephants show that there is a more densely populated forest and jungle and greenery.” With a species this huge, we do not know the ramification of what will happen when they are gone and we have to do something to stop it before it is too late.”
Publication from the WWF on Asian Elephants and Climate Change:
Watch this humorous video about how elephants grow a forest: https://youtu.be/UMFWdTVtQw0
THT: “People argue that many animals have gone extinct without man, I say, who cares, they are going to continue to go extinct, but when man has something to do with it, we need to do something about that!”
Ashley: “Wow, that’s everything, thank you…thank you.”
THT: “What would you like to say about this new environmental documentary film?
Ashley: “Come on this journey. Even in the making of it, it’s a documentary, but I set out to not make a documentary, but to take audiences on a journey and on an elephant rescue. So join the rescue and join king banana, join the herd!”
THT: “How is Noi Na doing?”
Ashley: “As of now she has made two new friends and Lek said that Noi Na is still eating extending her truck and not going up to the food and eat, it’s like in her mind she is still chained. So when she eats she never approaches the food she just reaches out with her trunk. Psychologically she is still in chains to this day, but she does spend her days down by the river and she loves to go swimming.”
THT: “What is Lek up to these days?”
Ashley: “There are 12 satellite camps that have done the humane conversion. Where they were trekking camps and they changed their model to be humane sanctuaries.”
“All throughout southern Thailand and Lek again provides all the resources to that camp to help them with volunteers and switching the elephants from chains to living more humanly. She has a whole team that assists with that so that the trekking owners won’t feel alone in the process. In doing this they are much more profitable than they ever were as trekking camps.”
“People are becoming more and more aware of wanting to be with elephants as elephants and not wanting to ride an elephant or see them in entertainment, that is just further proof that when you know better you do better.”
Ashley said that Lek will be here in Los Angeles for the KCET première on Friday at Sony studios.
“On Sunday, April 22nd we are going to be having a nationwide screening day on Earth Day of Love & Bananas all across the country and in the California locations Lek, myself and Change for Balance Productions, our production company will be doing Q&As and Skype.” Ashley said.
Check out the website: http://loveandbananas.com/screenings/
“You don’t need a bull hook to control an elephant. You can guide an elephant with love… And bananas” – Lek Chailert, Founder of Save Elephant Foundation
Please check this website out about a rescued elephant pictured here:
This is where we all need to go and join the herd to help make a difference in an elephant’s life – http://loveandbananas.com/join-the-herd/
The Love & Bananas Impact Campaign mission is to bring awareness, empathy and action to the plight of the Asian Elephant.
Check out these videos about Lek and her elephants.
Love Bigger Than Fear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7amiIElXUCM
Nick Merriman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uRbZDeBKVw
“Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story” is truly a movie you should take your children, especially teenage children to see. It is a powerful and emotional movie that we all need to see as to bring awareness of what happens to service elephants. We must do something to help save this species before they are all gone. Don’t miss your opportunity this Earth Day Sunday, April 22nd. Here are the cities that will be showing this amazing movie:
#SaveElephants #elephant #journey #wildlife #asia #conservation #environment #nature #thailand #srilanka #savetheelephants #smile #love #cute #happy #beyoutiful #film #filmmaking #documentary #indiefilm #movie#crowdfunding #indiegogo #rd3 #reddragon #canon #photography #camera
Directed by: Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism I & II, Carnage Park, Novitiate)
Written by: Ashley Bell, John Michael McCarthy and Fernanda Rossi
Executive produced by: Steve Bannerman, David Casselman, Pam Casselman, Ian Hultquist, Sofia Hultquist, Samantha Housman, Leandro Marini, and Roddy Tabatabai
Produced by: Ashley Bell, John Michael McCarthy and Ross M. Dinerstein
Ashley Bell: Director, Producer, Writer
An actress across film, television and theater, Ashley Bell is most recognizable for her critically acclaimed role in “The Last Exorcism,” for which she earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and an MTV Movie Award nomination. The New York Post praised Bell’s acting as “Oscar-worthy” and one of the 10 best performances of 2010 for her extraordinary portrayal of the possessed Nell Sweetzer. She reprised her role in “The Last Exorcism Part II” in 2013 and yet again received high praise.
Bell has since crossed genres, and in 2014 she made her Broadway début in the revival of the 1920’s expressionistic drama “Machinal,” alongside Rebecca Hall and directed by Lyndsey Turner. Since then, Bell’s projects have been a staple in the independent film festival circuit, with premieres at Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca and TIFF. Bell most recently starred in Mickey Keating’s feature film “Psychopaths” (Tribeca Film Festival 2017,) and the drama “Novitiate” (Sundance 2017). Additionally, Bell has completed production on the indie dramas “Next Door” and “The Swerve,” and the motion capture video game “Scalebound.” In 2016, Bell starred in Mickey Keating’s indie film “Carnage Park,” which premiered at Sundance, and for which she received rave reviews.
Bell directed, wrote and produced the feature documentary entitled “Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story,” which depicts the rescue of a blind Asian elephant from captivity in Thailand and her journey 500 miles to freedom.
It will be released nationwide in theaters this April by Abramorama. Additionally, Bell serves as an US Ambassador for Cruelty Free International.
Bell’s expansive list of film credits include the romantic comedy “Love & Air Sex,” directed by fellow Spirit Award nominee Bryan Poser, which premiered at SXSW; the romantic drama “From Above,” co-starring Danny Glover; the post-apocalyptic thriller “The Day,” starring opposite Shawn Ashmore and Dominic Monaghan, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; the coming of age indie “There’s a New World Somewhere”; the noir feature film “Sparks,” based on the graphic comic; and the WWE’s action film “The Marine: Homefront.” Her television credits include AMC’s “The Walking Dead” webisode series “The Oath,” Lifetime’s “Don’t Wake Mommy,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “The United States of Tara.”
In 2012, Bell lent her voice to the animated series “The LeBrons,” starring NBA player LeBron James. Her voice has also been featured in several top-selling video games, including the lead role of Erline in Sony PlayStation’s “Sorcery” and The White Queen in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bell is the daughter of actor/voice animator Michael Bell and actress and Groundlings co-founder Victoria Carroll. She studied acting and directing at Cambridge University, where she was awarded “Best Actress” for her portrayal of “Ophelia.” Bell later graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with honors, and was mentored by Oscar nominee Kathleen Turner.
Sangdeaun Lek Chailert: Herself, Founder Save Elephant Foundation
Sangdeaun Chailert, also known as Lek, which means “small” in Thai, was born in Thailand in 1962. In return for saving the life of a young man, her grandfather, a shaman or traditional healer, was given an elephant named Tong Kam, meaning Golden One. The bond that developed between Lek and Tong Kam sparked a love and respect for elephants that have shaped the course of her life.
After graduating from Chiang Mai University with an Arts degree, Lek worked in the tourist industry, where she became aware of the plight of the Asian elephant. She began championing the rights of elephants by raising public awareness of their situation and providing medical aid to elephants in remote villages.
In the 1990’s, Lek started rescuing injured, neglected, and elderly elephants and in 2003 was able to establish a permanent homeland for them in the picturesque Mae Taeng valley, near Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. She named this land Elephant Nature Park. Today, Elephant Nature Park is home to over 70 elephants that are able to roam freely during the day, live within family herds and develop close friendships with each other.
Elephants at the park are not required to work, do not perform tricks, and are not ridden, but instead, are allowed to live a natural life.
Lek is an award-winning conservationist, who has been working for over two decades to improve the conditions of elephants in Asia and promote their welfare.
Her work has received international acclaim and has been documented by National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, CNN, and the BBC, as well as print media around the world. In 2005, Lek was honored by Time Magazine as the “Hero of Asia” for her work to protect Asian elephants.
In 2010, she was honored by Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton as one of six Woman Heroes of Global Conservation and recently, in 2017, Lek was invited to attend and speak at the “Global Pact for the Environment” Summit at the United Nations, New York, by President Macron of France.
Today, Lek continues to be at the forefront of elephant (and other animal rights causes), raising international awareness and encouraging other countries in the region to follow her lead, as well as helping provide sustainable alternatives to local villages.
She has initiated projects in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar and maintains special relationships with the animals she rescues. Most days, she can be found at Elephant Nature Park spending time with the rescued herd.
Why Elephants are Important
Elephants are among the most intelligent of the creatures with whom we share the planet, with complex consciousness that are capable of strong emotions. Across Africa they have inspired respect from the people who share the landscape with them, giving them a strong cultural significance. As icons of the continent elephants are tourism magnets, attracting funding that helps protect wilderness areas. They are also keystone species, playing an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live.
When forest elephants eat, they create gaps in the vegetation. These gaps allow new plants to grow and create pathways for other smaller animals to use. They are also one of the major ways in which trees disperse their seeds; some species rely entirely upon elephants for seed dispersal.
On the savannahs, elephants feeding on tree sprouts and shrubs help to keep the plains open and able to support the plains game that inhabit these ecosystems.
Wherever they live, elephants leave dung that is full of seeds from the many plants they eat. When this dung is deposited the seeds are sown and grow into new grasses, bushes and trees, boosting the health of the savannah ecosystem.
From Baby to Adolescence
A baby elephant weighs about 200-250 lbs. (91-113 kilgograms). At birth, a calf’s trunk has little muscle tone and no coordination. It takes several months for a calf to gain full control of its trunk. Baby elephants suckle through their mouth. Young Asian elephants are reported to stand soon after birth. After several months, the calf begins to eat grass and foliage. It stays under the supervision of its mother for several years, but begins making independent movements at four years. Full size is attained at about 18-24 years.