Elephant Soldiers (Armenia)

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Production Company: Bars Media Documentary Film Studio

Company website


“Robinson is loudly protesting in front of an electric fence, demanding his right to pass through. Max and Joseph are trying to convince him to leave, as his life is in danger. Meanwhile, Mzee is busy negotiating with the crowd gathered on the other side of the fence, trying to get them to leave Robinson alone…

This would be a typical scene of protest, except that Robinson… is an elephant. These three men, Max, Mzee, and Joseph, have one goal – ending the war between elephants and humans. Elephants searching for food and villages trying to protect their source of surviving: crops. But it is a war on two fronts. Even as they make progress in the villages of the rural Kenyan highlands, the international front of the war becomes ever more deadly for the elephants. Asia’s insatiable demand for ivory could not be satisfied even if all the elephants of the world were killed. And most of the elephants in highlands are killed not by villages, but poachers to smuggle ivory of tusks to Asia.” (Bars website)

Introduction: Robinson is loudly protesting in front of an electric fence. Max and Joseph are trying to convince him to leave – his life is in danger. Mzee is negotiating with the crowd on the other side, trying to get them to leave Robinson alone. A typical scene of protest except Robinson is an elephant. Max, Mzee and Joseph have one goal – ending the war between elephants and humans in Kenya. But there is a second, bloodier front. China is developing a massive demand for ivory – there are not enough elephants in the world to satisfy it. The number of elephants being killed in Kenya is increasing dramatically. Max must become an international detective, hiding GPS chips in the tusks of murdered elephants to track them all the way to china.


Bars Media Documentary Film Studio was established in 1993 by Vardan Hovhannisyan, who began his career as a frontline-filmmaker covering hotspots in the former Soviet Union. Bars Media was one of the first independent film companies in Armenia, which specializes in making documentaries about human stories, culture, history and other social issues. “Bars” means “simple”, “clear”, or “straightforward” in Armenian, and that is exactly what Bars Media produces; well-researched, creative, clear-cut documentaries.

Studio’s documentaries have been broadcast on BBC-Storyville, ARTE(France-Germany), WDR(Germany), PBS(US), YLE(Finland), NHK(Japan) and other international channels. Tucked away in the mountains of the Caucasus, the Bars Media office in Yerevan encompasses an eclectic montage of individuals, including locals from Armenia, individuals from the Diaspora, and from other European and Western countries. This dynamic mix of people allows for diverse outlooks and approaches to fuse, adding a distinctive element to the studio.

Bars Media Studio’s documentary A Story of People in War and Peace is a powerful, personal understanding of the human costs of war. The film has won over 20 other awards including the FIPRESCI prize, the Best Documentary Filmmaker Award at Tribeca Film Festival, the Audience Award at Trieste Film Festival, the Special Mention Award at the ZagrebDox Film Festival and Docaviv Film Festival, and was nominated for the Joris Ivens award at IDFA. The film was shown on the BBC, ARTE, PBS, WDR, YLE and others.

Studio’s another documentary The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia, an international co-production with NHK, ITVS, YLE, SVT, TVP and TVE. The film awarded The Best Armenian Film Award at the Golden Apricot International Film Festival, the Best Documentary at 39th Dance on Camera Film Festival in New York, Grand Prix at XIX International Festival of Ethnological Film in Serbia and others. The film was also included in official screening list of IDFA, Goteborg International Film Festival, Euganea Film Festival, FilmFest Humburg.

Bars Media is also developing documentary films in Africa, Russia, Afghanistan, and at the North and South Poles.


Vardan Hovhannisyan
President / Founder
(Armenia) Vardan began his career as a director, producer, and cameraman for International news outlets such as CBS, BBC and ARTE. He covered hotspots throughout the Soviet Union and the Nagorno-Karabagh war before founding Bars Media, the first independent documentary film studio in Armenia, in 1993. His first intenational documentary was prompted by a question from his son about his work during the war – it led Vardan to return to his experience and the people he had met there. The result was A Story of People in War and Peace, an International Co-production with BBC, ITVS/PBS, ARTE, WDR, YLE and others. After the success of War and Peace, Vardan returned to the rich history of his native Armenia to produce The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia, a documentary about an ancient and dying art. Vardan is currently developing documentaries in Africa, Russia and Afghanistan. Vardan is a certified paraglide pilot and in his free time he is flying sometimes for aerial filming and sometimes just for fun.

Inna Sahakyan
Producer / Director
(Armenia) Inna Sahakyan has been producing and directing films at Bars Media for over ten years. She began with small projects in the villages of Armenia for various International organizations like UNICEF, USAID, and the UN, producing films such as ‘Sold Out Childhood,’ and ‘Childhood Dreams’ about orphans and children with disabilities. Inna was the assistant director on Vardan Hovannisyan’s International award-film, A Story of War and Peace, and then went on to co-direct her first full length documentary, The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia, an International Co-production with NHK, ITVS, YLE, SVT, and TVP. Currently, Inna is developing Elephant Soldiers, a documentary following a British scientist on an international adventure to save the world’s population of African elephants. When Inna is not chasing stories around the globe, she spends her time raising two beautiful daughters and managing an office full producers, directors, and interns.

Video on Vimeo Doc project page on reelisor and DOKweb

Full presentation on HAF website

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