The Elephant Queen

Director: Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone
Screenwriters: Mark Deeble

Institute History

  • 2019 Sundance Film Festival


Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Content Advisory: Scenes of the natural cycle of life.

The African savanna elephant is the world’s largest animal and one of the few species that live in a matriarchal society. The Elephant Queen introduces us to Athena, a 50-year-old “tusker”—a now rare elephant whose tusks grow long enough to reach the ground—who is queen of her herd. These animals live in the arid lands of Africa, where food and water are scarce and there is a precarious balance between life and death. We join them as their “green season” watering hole is drying up, and Athena is weighing the dangerous trek to the oasis that is their dry-season refuge, a precarious journey particularly for the youngest elephants. Throughout their adventure, we witness their lives, the challenges they face, and the complex ecosystem that depends on them for survival.

Featuring beautiful cinematography and honeyed narration, this glimpse into a complex animal society contextualizes how the changing, unforgiving climate and illegal poaching are substantially impacting these majestic pachyderms and ultimately the ecosystem they help maintain.

— P.H.

Screening Details


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