Lion Ark, the feature length documentary about the rescue of 25 lions from cruel circuses in Bolivia, has been nominated by America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, the NAACP, in their Outstanding International Motion Picture category for the 45th NAACP Image Awards.

The prestigious Image Awards by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrates “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts, as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.”

Lion Ark follows a dangerous and ambitious international animal rescue as illegal circuses are tracked down across Bolivia and the animals saved, culminating in a huge airlift of 25 lions to safety in the US. Behind the huge logistical task a group of people from Britain, America, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia come together to help the lions.

Actress Jorja Fox, world famous for her role as Sara Sidle in CSI, is an associate Producer of Lion Ark and also appears in the film: “What I didn’t realize was that it was going to be an extraordinary story about the human spirit and what the human spirit can do when people come together.”

Early in the film, Jan Creamer Chief Executive and founder of Animal Defenders International, the organisation behind the rescue, explains the rescuers’ motivation: “People sometimes ask, why bother about animals when there’s so much human suffering? But it is not a choice of one or the other. When we protect the weakest or the most vulnerable, whether it is animals or people, we all gain. That’s how we shape our world…. understanding our connection with other species, and our place on this planet, is the next step in human evolution.”

Tim Phillips Director of Lion Ark: “We are honoured to have been nominated for this award. Lion Ark is a film about respect for people and animals so we are really pleased to receive this acknowledgement. In this film, you see the worst of humanity, but also humanity at its best. It is an empowering film that shows that people can make a difference. Lion Ark shows how animal protection is a vital part of the fabric of social justice, where human society draws a line as to what is, and is not, acceptable .”

The film shows how Bolivians got behind the rescue mission and in one scene a Bolivian Government official makes references to how some international non-governmental organisations can be heavy handed when working in poorer countries. Wildlife official David Kopp says: “Some international organizations think this is a poor country, a small, corrupt country and you can come in here and do what you like, but that’s not true. We’re looking for respect and coordinated work. Then we can do big things, like this.”

In addition to Lion Ark the other five nominees in the Outstanding International Motion Picture category are: 
War Witch; Call Me Kuchu; La Playa D.C.; High Tech, Low Life.

Nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture are: 
12 Years a Slave; Lee Daniel’s The Butler; Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Fruitvale Station; The Best Man Holiday.

Others up for awards this year in different categories include Beyoncé, John Legend, Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Hudson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Forest Whitaker.

Members of the NAACP have until February 14th to vote for the nominated movies for the Image Awards, with the award ceremony taking place on February 21st and 22nd. The glittering awards ceremony in Los Angeles has, in the past, been hosted by luminaries such as Denzel Washington, Diana Ross, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Whitney Houston.

Since Bolivia prohibited the use of animals in travelling circuses, 4 other South American countries have followed – Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Paraguay. And in Europe, countries like Greece, Austria, Croatia and Portugal have implemented similar measures. Countries like China and Taiwan are grappling with this issue of animal protection.

Over 25 countries have banned animal circuses, representing a huge range of cultures and socio economic circumstances; there is a worldwide movement that animals should not be made to suffer, just to amuse us.

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