Making documentary films has been a lifelong journey for Pamela Gordon.
Yet, when it came to helming “Lion: The Rise and Fall of the Marsh Pride,” she simply says it “was a privilege.”
“To be honest I’ve done a lot of films, but I’m passionate about conservation,” she says. “When the BBC asked me to do the film, I jumped at the chance because it became pretty clear quickly that it was going to be a powerful story.”
“Lion: The Rise and Fall of the Marsh Pride” will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, on New Mexico PBS. It will also stream on the PBS Video app.
The documentary tells the epic story of the famed lion family as they battle for survival in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve. Filmed for over 30 years by the BBC and others, and known worldwide, the Marsh Pride is facing its toughest fight yet as conflict between the lions and humans increases.
The Marsh Pride became famous worldwide thanks to a series of wildlife films that chronicled the lives of its members for over 30 years. Featured in the film are Simon King and Jonathan Scott, naturalists and filmmakers who first followed the pride in “Big Cat Diary” in 1996 and made the pride’s lions household names.
Gordon says the film combines archival footage and recently shot film showing how the lions now find themselves increasingly at odds with their human neighbors.
“To be able to go through the extensive archive footage took some time,” Gordon says. “We looked for the stories that would captivate an audience.”
Gordon wanted to tell the story of the pride’s survival.
She says buffalo and male lions pose a deadly threat to young cubs, and human settlements are encroaching more and more onto pride territory.
The fortunes of the lions depend on the precious space they have left to be able to raise their young. But the lions’ more frequent attacks on increasing numbers of local cattle and subsequent revenge attacks by Maasai herders – including the use of a poison that kills other animals as well – threaten the pride as never before.
Over the past decades, over half of Africa’s lions have been wiped out, leaving around 20,000 in the wild. Habitat loss and huge population growth increasingly put them in direct confrontation with humans.
The Marsh Pride remains in its historic territory, though the landscape around the lions has radically changed. The threats to their survival are increasing, as they are for lions across the continent. The future of these noble animals hangs in the balance.
“We’re at a point in the world where we need to decide if our future includes lions,” Gordon says. “I want a world with big cats in it. Poisoning them not only affects the lions, but all of the animals in the habitat. I’m hoping viewers will see the importance and move in the direction of making change.”