|2004 - Alan Root|
In 2004, at the Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol, Alan Root was the very deserving winner of the inaugural FFC Conservation Filmmaker of the Year Award.
Being the first year that the award was run the judges didn't really know what to expect. There were 35 entries from all corners of the globe tackling issues as diverse as tuna, timber, reefs and rainforest - most of an extremely high standard. The key feedback from the judges, "with such a well qualified and deserving pool of entrants our task of selecting the final four nominees became a true challenge. We had a dizzying array of entries - and a fascinating time discussing them".
Alan Root has had a long and distinguished career. In 1957 he was cameraman for Dr. Bernhard Grzimek's survey of the Serengeti to map the route of the wildebeest migration and filmed 'Serengeti Shall Not Die'. The expedition came to a tragic end when Grzimek's son Michael was killed, crashing his plane while on his way to collect Alan, but the film won an Oscar, and was to become a benchmark in conservation film making.
Five decades later Alan is still actively involved in delivering powerful films, one of the latest being an expose of the mis-management of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. From the very outset he has, at his own expense, had his films translated into Kiswahili and distributed thousands of copies to local communities, schools and governments.
For twenty years he, and his then wife Joan, collaborated closely to make groundbreaking films that came to define the Blue Chip Special. Largely ignoring the mega fauna around them, they concentrated on smaller subjects - most notably termites - and their ‘Castles of Clay' was nominated for another Oscar.
Tragically, in January 2006, Joan was assassinated at her farmhouse on the shores of Lake Naivasha in Kenya. She was a fearless filmmaker and conservationist and was involved in action to stop poaching and illegal fishing and trying to preserve the wildlife in and around the lake.
As Britain's Independent Newspaper reported in 2007, appropriately enough, a film, starring Julia Roberts is to be made of Joan Root's life. Fittingly, Alan Root is involved in the film project to be shot on location in Africa. He is also involved in a cinema film to be made about Dr. Grzimek's work on the Serengeti, which he sees as nicely closing the circle of his career.
He was recently awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to wildlife filming.At FFC our hats go off to Alan for his, and Joan's, lifelong commitment to conservation and using film to educate, inspire and facilitate change.