World-renowned documentaries Derek and Beverly Joubert have been working for more than thirty years to film wildlife and their natural habitats, to encourage our fascination with large predators and to encourage us to act to save them from the extinction they face.
Their passion, mediator, has become a commitment over the decades, to take the form of the Big Cat Initiative. Since 2009, with National Geographic, they have been engaged in the field around a central idea: big cats need big actions. A multi-year campaign involving not only protection and awareness-raising, but also funding of research projects aimed at conserving the species of big cats whose future depends more than ever on us.
Big cats fascinate, they have this unique presence, this fictitious nonchalance, this instinct that characterizes formidable hunters. They are as beautiful as they are threatened, as strong as they are feared.
And soon they will be only a distant memory, an imprint left in the history of our planet. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 26 species of big cats are now threatened with extinction. Our children and grandchildren may never know Asian cheetahs, snow leopards, Iberian lynx, Sumatran tigers, South African leopards or even African lions.
It is against this fatalism that hardly suits them that Beverly and Derek Joubert rise up and continue to make good documentaries. We met them in 2021, on the occasion of the release of their latest film, The jade-eyed leopardrebroadcast this month on National Geographic Wild, as part of a collection dedicated to this pair of documentaries, “Les films des Joubert”, from Wednesday the 1st.eh June to Wednesday, June 15 at. 21.00.
Why did you choose to dedicate your career and your life to animals, and in particular to big cats? Do you find them particularly fascinating, or was it life that guided you to them?
Derek Joubert : We went into the bush to try to understand each other and understand this continent on which we were born (Africa, editor’s note). And a little awkwardly, we realized that to understand all of this, we really had to focus on the big, iconic predators, and of course we fell in love. We fell in love with each other and we fell in love with the big cats. And then we realized that few creatures matched the big cats.
Beverly Joubert : To complete, I think we could almost consider the last forty years as a reference study; every decade things have changed. First, as Derek said, we were so excited and so passionate about what we were filming. But very quickly we discovered the atrocities to which this region and of course the predators were exposed. We knew we had to say no. And that’s why we launched the Big Cat Initiative with National Geographic. For during the production time of a film, two to three years, nearly 10,000 leopards were legally killed by trophy hunters. And we’re just talking about the number of people who were killed legally … We quickly realized that this would not be sustainable and that there would soon be no more leopards on this planet. So the Big Cat Initiative gave us a voice to talk about big cats.
Derek Joubert : Beverly is right about the four phases, the first decade [de notre travail] was marked by the love and celebration of these big cats, the other by indignation at what happened to them. The third decade has been dedicated to our commitment and the last to action to save these felines.
All over the world, animals are now threatened by human activities: habitat loss, poaching, trophy hunting are all direct threats … How do you as filmmakers find the right balance between the need to inform, the need to warn the public and the need to entertain it? ?
Derek Joubert : I think we’re storytellers. Storytelling comes naturally to us. I think even if you have something important to say, you should say it well. It can be entertaining and carry a message. If there is no message, it is not really interesting. They are just lions jumping on every prey. For us, there really has to be meaning, and I think the audience reacts that way to telling stories.
Beverly Joubert : Absolutely. Conservation is at the heart of our film, but since we’ve always given ourselves two to three years to be on earth and record them, it’s given us the opportunity to look into the personalities of our characters. What you see on the screen is not an ordinary lion, leopard or cheetah. We make the choice to bring you into a family of cheetahs. And by living with them, by sharing their concerns, so to speak, we realize the enormous challenges they face on a daily basis. They have to survive their changing environment, they have to escape other predators … This is how we manage to interest a very large audience.
Derek Joubert : And you know, nothing we film is fabricated or staged. IN The jade-eyed leopardyou can see that this leopard has a personality.
Beverly Joubert : She was really unique to us. We lived among the leopards and they all had amber eyes and suddenly we saw the eyes of this leopard swinging between turquoise and jade. It took our breath away. We were captivated, which is important to be able to tell a story. Each of the 50,000 African leopards has a unique personality. That’s why we really need to protect them all, now more than ever.