Elephant In The Room

In November 2017, elephant caretaker, Somsak Riengngen died from the mighty tusk of Ekasit, his prized elephant, during a job he took at the Zoo. The elephant was believed to have suffered from a natural state of periodic aggression, known as musth, a condition an elephant goes through when he comes of age. His son, Ake Riengngen, now acts as his successor as he struggles to care for the elephant that killed his father while taking care of his own elephant who has come of his age of musth.

  • Hariz Zulkifli
  • Hariz Zulkifli
  • Chia Choong Kai
  • Jordan Lee
  • Kayson Lau
  • Josephine L. Winardi & Chia Choong Kai
    Audio Mixer
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Biopic, Drama
  • Runtime:
    20 minutes 7 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 1, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    3,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Central Khmer, English, Thai
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director - Hariz Zulkifli
Director Statement

Elephants have played important economic, cultural and even military roles in Thailand for centuries, but now the connection humans have with these gentle beasts has come under increased scrutiny. Thailand’s dependency on elephants is now restricted to tourism and cultural parades. Tradition has required Mahouts to be tagged to an elephant for life, which means that the bond that one elephant shares with a Mahout needs to be authentic.

In this documentary I chose to explore the theme of empathy for both the Elephant and the Mahout which are sometimes portrayed as polar opposites in contemporary media. It was important for me to portray empathy towards both parties in this narrative in a balanced manner as the relationship between the two is a complex and interdependent one.