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When Elephants Were Young

When Elephants Were Young


Researcher, Production Coordinator

When Elephants Were Young (documentary)

Winner, Best Documentary, PBIFF


Narrated by William Shatner

Wok and his young elephant Nong Mai share a life of struggle and street begging in gritty Bangkok. Their tender bond reveals a complex relationship where elephants live with humans even though they are wild animals. One day the opportunity comes to release Nong Mai to the wild. Can an elephant who has only known a life of captivity survive in the forest? While the lens never strays from its focus of protecting the endangered Asian elephant from exploitation and extinction, this provocative and bittersweet film is a surprising view into the paradoxes of elephants in captivity, dismantling common beliefs about the age-old relationship between human and elephant. Despite imminent threats to the future of Asian elephants, the opportunity for Nong Mai's survival may be a happy ending that offers hope for all.


“outstanding documentary… surprising… compelling… dramatic… [it] features insights from elephant experts as the filmmakers explore the complex relationship between elephants and humans. While observing the bond between Wok, a young mahout, and Nong Mai, the elephant he has cared for since she was three, they pull the bigger picture into sharp focus — notably the sacred place elephants occupy in Asian culture, and their endangerment.” - Michael D. Reid, Times Colonist

“When Elephants Were Young is the result of [a] five-year quest to explore new strategies for the future of human-elephant relations and the survival of all elephants.” - CBC

“…the film does a fantastic job at dealing with such a complicated issue in such a short amount of time. If you’re interested in wildlife conservation around the world, this is a great film to watch!” - Andrea Merrill, Animals of the Pacific Northwest

“excellent… illuminating… [the] relationship [between elephants and humans] is expertly examined in this film. [The film] serves to enlighten audiences to a problem [and] William Shatner provides a wonderful, thoughtful, scripted narration.” - Ed Sum, Otaku no Culture