Victoria Film Festival Preview: Return to the Forest

Documentary delves into Elephant Memory: Reintroducing the wild

'Jeroonee' with her two-month-old baby born in the wild at the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation sanctuary in Thailand.

'Jeroonee' with her two-month-old baby born in the wild at the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation sanctuary in Thailand.


Taking part in the Victoria Film Festival doesn’t only get a filmmaker great exposure and maybe a little cash; for many it’s an opportunity to highlight a cause — like the plight of Asian elephants.

Victoria-based director and producer Patricia Sims is doing just that with her 30-minute short, Return to the Forest. Narrated by William Shatner, the film explores a unique Thai non-profit called “Elephant Reintroduction Foundation” through the reintroduction process of three elephants into one of the foundation’s vast, human-free sanctuaries.

Finding this positive story in a tale so fraught with sadness was important to Sims. “Film reaches people on such a deep emotional level,” she says. “What’s the point in making something that just leaves people feeling helpless?”

Spending most of her time these past years in Thailand, Sims learned more and more about the 5,000 years of interdependence between Asia and the elephant. This relationship is known as Mahout culture and it’s one where right and wrong become uncomfortably blurred.

To learn more, Sims and her collaborator, Michael Clark, followed elephant, Nong-Mai, and her human accomplice through the process of Nong-Mai’s reintroduction. Just $40,000 away from their fund-raising total to complete the full-length feature, Elephants Never Forget, the independent filmmaking president of CanazWest Productions is asking Victorians for help. To join the crowd-funding campaign, visit and click the How Can I Help? tab.

As for Sims, her passion for film and activism has taken her from the dolphins and whales of our oceans to the dwindling Asian elephants of Thailand. The interconnection of all things is clear, but Sims holds a special place for these giants. “I guess I just have a thing for animals with big brains.”  M


Return to the Forest joins My Little Underground and La Vista for an 86-minute block entitled Mid Lengths: My Real Home

Thurs., Feb. 7 • Empire Theatre #5 • 9:45pm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Bard to Broadway Theatre Society may stage shows outdoors next summer. (PQB News photo file)
Qualicum Beach’s Bard to Broadway group may stage shows outdoors

Theatre society plans smaller productions due to ongoing pandemic

Most Read