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

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