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Pant Hoot

A genocide survivor transcends overwhelming odds to become a master chimpanzee linguist

As the world’s chimpanzee population dwindles in the wild, one-man risks everything to care for a group of mistreated animals rescued by Jane Goodall’s Chimp Eden Sanctuary in South Africa. Stany Nyandwi, a survivor of the Burundi genocide, overcomes insurmountable odds to become one of the only humans to master the complicated ‘pant hoot’ chimp language. Recognizing that it’s not just a chimpanzee/human struggle, he’s taken it upon himself to reconnect with our closest relatives on this planet.  

Love knows no man-made boundaries in this universal story about understanding.

  • Richard Reens
    Grief A Comedy
  • Richard Reens
    Grief A Comedy
  • Stany Nyandwi
    Key Cast
  • Jane Goodall
    Key Cast
  • Jana Swart
    Key Cast
  • Dr. Lewis Hollweg
    Key Cast
  • Dr. Lewis Hollweg
    Executive Producer
  • Barbara Hollweg
    Executive Producer
  • Adam W Henderson
  • Adele Etheridge Woodson
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Wildlife, Nature, Documentary, Short, conservation
  • Runtime:
    21 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 4, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada, South Africa
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Richard Reens

Richard Reens is an award-winning commercial director/dp and photographer whose innovative style and intimate approach lends the most beneficial, paramount experience to both clients and actors. His debut documentary short film, Pant Hoot, focuses on Stany Nyandwi, an African man who survived the Burundi genocide and overcame insurmountable odds to become a master chimp linguist.
Richard’s commercial directing experience includes jaw-dropping campaigns for Mercedes Benz, Hummer, Sony, and 7UP. His instinctual ability to appeal to a target audience is evident in his highly regarded season spots for Fox Television series “The OC” and his reputation also has an international reach. His campaigns in Eastern Europe have impacted the advertising culture so strongly that they are now the focus of lectures in advertising conferences and have had significant impact on the advertising landscape in some areas.
At an early age, Richard chose to follow in the footsteps of his father who was a highly acclaimed photographer. At the age of 10, Richard was already shooting and developing his own pictures. Richard’s excellence in still photography captured the attention of Neiman Marcus and Estée Lauder, which launched his career at age 18. Through experimentation with unconventional photographic techniques, and adopting unusual visual and conceptual approaches to his subjects, he quickly moved from tabletop to fine art to fashion photography. Instinct to seek out fresh new faces, led Richard to discover and photograph models who became household names, including Supermodels Brigitte Hall and Chandra North, Angie Harmon, and Shannon Elizabeth. Richard’s photographs have been featured in international publications including Allure, Amica, Glamour and Marie Claire.
A consummate professional whose work is recognized worldwide and has received numerous awards and accolades, Richard was named one of the top 15 photographers in the world by Archive Magazine in 2001. His television commercials and still photographs have won hundreds of advertising awards including, Clio’s, CA Advertising, Design, and Photography Annuals, New York Art Directors Club, and more than a half-dozen coveted pencils in The One Show.
Richard is a native New Yorker, and a graduate of New York School of Art and Design. In addition to his continued pursuit of his lifelong passion for training, and riding horses, Richard is an underwater cinematographer and enjoys skiing, scuba diving, and skydiving.
Richard lives in Dallas, TX is an FAA licensed remote pilot (drones), and a seasoned world traveler.

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Director Statement

When Barbara and Lewis Hollweg asked me to direct a movie about Stany Nyandwi, a man who talks to chimpanzees, I was immediately intrigued and admittedly a bit skeptical, but his story grabbed me and I was in.

Stany’s and the chimps’ stories are so epic that it moved me to shoot the film in an epic style versus traditional documentary. The combined tragedies of the film’s subjects’ life stories dictated my shooting style: Stany having survived genocide, the sanctuary chimps having been rescued from unimaginable cruelty, and chimpanzees in the wild facing extinction.

The film was shot framing in widescreen aspect ratio: long lenses fostering an intimacy with the subjects and compression creating a feeling of claustrophobia, with no sky in the frame. Only at the end, we get wide and see the sky, which provides a feeling of hope because there is still time to change the fate of the chimps in the wild. But, as Jane Goodall wrote, “only if we understand”…

We spent five days shooting the chimps at Chimp Eden sanctuary in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, South Africa. I will never forget the most memorable moments we experienced: seated on a fallen tree trunk, the chimps gathered daily to watch the sun go down.

More than once in the middle of the night (around 3AM) I was awakened by very loud pant-hooting. I imagined that one of the chimps woke from a nightmare, and the other chimps were telling him they were with him and all was ok. Although it woke me, I felt a deep connection to them.

After we left South Africa the next important part of making the film was interviewing Jane Goodall, catching up with her in Ottawa, Canada. I was so stricken by the power of her message and warnings that I teared up multiple times. It was such an honor to meet her. In addition, I was honored to work with everyone involved, including the most precious of our subjects, the chimps.

For everyone who will watch this film, I want them to experience the emotional ride that we were all present for, with a combination of heartbreak, humor and wonder, while simultaneously falling in love with Stany and chimpanzees, because that’s what I experienced making the film PANT HOOT.