“The only thing that’s going to save the game in Africa is hunting.” A paradox? Maybe not, according to film maker George Butler, who believes that “professional hunters act as a deterrent to hunting and a healthy stimulus to local economies.” Convinced that big game hunting actually results in conservation, Butler set out to make the first feature film ever about hunting. IN THE BLOOD is not just an outing into the woods, but “a figurative and literal safari into the past in search of a future.”
The film retraces two safaris. The first is a year-long safari trip that Theodore Roosevelt made with his son, Kermit, in 1909 through eastern Africa. Roosevelt recorded the trip in a book, AFRICAN GAME TRAIL, and on film using the first movie camera ever in the region. The second is a 1986 hunt in which Roosevelt’s grandson, Ted, embarked with a small group of hunters and film crew to explore the relationship between hunting and conservation. There are arguments around the campfire about conservation, stalking sequences that give a vivid sense of what it is to hunt and dramatic moments when the hunter takes his prey.
There is also a final hunt where legendary Kenyan white hunter, Robin Hurt, takes Butler’s son, Tyssen, 13, to pursue the Cape buffalo. He tests his skills with the powerful Holland & Holland rifle that was used to shoot big game by President Roosevelt. The most valuable gun in the world (at $5 million), it is one of the leitmotifs of the film and ties together the 1909 and 1986 safaris.
The film’s title is inspired by Hurt: “If hunting is in your blood, it’s with you your whole life.” The title also refers to the tradition of hunting passed down from father to son, as well as to the different generations of Roosevelts portrayed in the film. Thus, those values embodied in the first trip are brought forward to the second.
This strongly opinionated documentary raises serious questions about the values of hunting in Africa and in our own country. Motivating intelligent people to stewardship, the film’s hope is to educate people about the benefits of hunting, and to “bring hunters and preservationists together within the conservationist movement.” Butler, in fact, speaks passionately of highly selective hunting. “We only go for old trophy males. Elephants,” he says, “are the best hunting there is, but because herds in Africa have been dangerously depleted by ivory poachers…. I haven’t let a client shoot one for two years now.”
It should be noted that the new environmentalism expressed in this film has found that those areas of the world with the most regulated, government controlled economies have also had the worst environmental records whether the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, or the authoritarian regimes of Africa and South America. For instance, elephants have been largely left out of private ownership and included under the public trust in most of Africa; therefore, with no one responsible except the central bureaucracy, elephants in these public park areas have been hunted almost to extinction. However, in those areas of Africa (Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, and parts of Zambia) where the elephant is owned, their owners protect them since higher prices for ivory have led the owners to breed, nurture and harvest the elephant as with any other owned livestock. Thus, people do better economically; while the elephant does better ecologically.
The film’s music is a mix of old and new, and represents a rich tapestry of African sounds. IN THE BLOOD is not just for hunters, but for all lovers of animals and natural resources. In fact, the more you care about animals and the environment, the more you’ll want to see IN THE BLOOD to gain a deeper understanding of the issues.
Brief native nudity