The Rhino Guardians Review

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 1.33.28 PM
Genre: Documentary
Year Released: 2017
Distributor: Unlicensed
Origin: New Zealand/South Africa

Running Time: 5 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG

Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Blue Gold, Black Gold, Trashed

-This film is streaming on Vimeo.

-You can support The Black Mamba group here. Help them fight against poachers.
Fun Facts:

-The Rhino Guardians was a Vimeo Staff Pick.

-The Black Mambas are the first all-female anti-poaching unit in the world.

-The Rhino Guardians won awards such as the Best Documentary Short and Best Cinematography at the Indie Film Awards in 2018.

Here comes an unexpected recurring phenomenon on Iridium Eye. I’m reviewing another short film involving a country from Oceania co-producing something with South Africa. For those that don’t remember, I reviewed Inja which was an Australian/South African film that was part of Film Movement’s Art of the Short Film compilation DVD. Unlike that film, this one’s a documentary and directed by a New Zealander Dan Sadgrove. You might remember that name since I reviewed one of his other shorts called A Dream Dressed in Black.

Let’s check out this project from Dan Sadgrove involving one of the most unique anti-poaching task forces out there.

The Rhino Guardians takes place in Hoedspruit, South Africa at the Balule Nature Reserve. That reserve is protected by The Black Mambas consisting of some of the bravest women in the country trying to deter poachers from hunting the animals, namely rhinos as the title states. These poachers have been killing these pachyderms to steal their horns and sell them as ivory on the black market. The Black Mambas aren’t having it and do their best to save these creatures. Besides being an all-female anti-poaching corps, they have other unique things going for them because they’re unarmed, educate others, and come from lower-class backgrounds.

One thing I give major props to Dan Sadgrove is that he has some of the best production I’ve seen from an indie director. The camera work is spot-on and the cinematography is something that would make even Hollywood directors take notice. Come on, if someone like Clint Eastwood, Jon Favreau, or Martin Scorsese made The Rhino Guardians, then all these Mainstream-monger losers would rave nonstop before demanding them to get an Oscar for best Short Documentary. The usage of natural earth tones and coloration really add to the visuals. Besides all of that, I enjoyed a ton of the stories that The Black Mambas told. Those women deserve respect for giving their all to protect the animals. It also shows that even people from disadvantaged walks of life can do great things and it’s done in a believable way instead of something that’s incredibly cheesy like so many Hollywood movies. Those messages are inspiring. I also liked the music where it used ambient and post-rock tracks that weren’t overbearing at all. Those aspects made this documentary work for me.

The Rhino Guardians does fall short in some factors though. For starters, this film was too short. I would’ve liked to have seen a subject like this with double or triple the running time as so much could be shown and explained with the issues at hand. I also thought there were missing story and interview opportunities going on. What inspired the women to fight against poaching? How did they do everything to rise up to make this unit? Will any of them address the ramifications of post-Apartheid South Africa that lead to there being inequality that still affects the majority of that country to this day? There were so many unanswered questions that I would’ve liked to have known about with The Black Mambas.

The Rhino Guardians is certainly a good find from Vimeo. Dan Sadgrove’s production and camera work shines very well here with the saturation, slow-mo effects, and vast background shots. The story of The Black Mambas is certainly an inspiring one that could touch many a viewer. The originality of this subject deserves to be mentioned as it’s far from some corny environmental/conservation documentary. I do wish that some aspects of the task force’s stories were mentioned or brought up though. The Rhino Guardians is a good watch nonetheless and I hope these women keep on fighting the good fight.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1-2 points if you like nature or environmental documentaries.
Add 1 point if you like inspirational stories.
Subtract 1-2 points if you don’t care about poaching stories.

-Phenomenal camera work and cinematography
-Great stories from The Black Mambas
-Environmental message that isn’t preachy or forced

-Lack of some important questions asked
-Way too short
-Needed some more representation from additional Black Mambas

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Warning: The Rhino Guardians is one of the more safe documentaries, but there are some reservations. Some of the scenes involve rhinos with missing or damaged horns which can be unsettling to see given the obvious reasons how they ended up that way. There’s also imagery with guns and machetes going on even though there’s no obvious violence shown onscreen.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. The Rhino Guardians is property of Dan Sadgrove. The screenshot is from Vimeo and is property of Dan Sadgrove.

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