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Rated 3.03 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Thrilling and Uplifting
by Betty Jo Tucker

If you enjoy movies filled with suspense, thrills, surprises, adventure and action, put Lion Ark on your must-see list. Never mind that itís a documentary, for the usual talking heads and boring interviews are missing here. This incredible real-life tale about rescuing 25 abused African lions and transporting them from Bolivia to Colorado -- a distance of 5,000 miles -- unfolds in sequences filmed as each part of the story was actually happening. This intimate approach drew me into the drama and made me care deeply for the protagonists and the animals being rescued. And while watching the movie, I couldnít help being inspired by the examples of bravery and dedication presented on screen.

Among the heroes of Lion Ark are: Tim Phillips and his wife Jan Creamer, co-founders of Animal Defenders International (ADI); legendary TV host Bob Barker; actress Jorja Fox (Memento, CSI) and Pat Craig, founder of the Wild Animal Sanctuary. Phillips served as director and co-writer of the film; Creamer not only co-wrote the script but also plays a crucial role on screen; Fox is an ADI Ambassador; Barker funded the daring rescue; and Craig found the Colorado land the lions now call home. Iím in awe over the amount of planning, cooperation and bold action involved in this amazing project!

After Bolivia bans the use of circus animals as the result of an undercover investigation by ADI, this organization takes on the job of rescuing the circus lions in question and finding a home for them. Creamer and Phillips head up the group working on this important task. Naturally, some of the owners are upset about this new law, and the documentary shows a few dangerous interactions before the animals are taken away. Itís in these disturbing scenes where we see the terrible abuse the lions have suffered. Ridiculously small cages, overcrowding, lack of exposure to sunlight, and separation from their own kind, to name a few. Fortunately, the intrepid Creamer prevails. Sheís a tough cookie, for sure!

Rescuing all 25 lions is just the first step. The animals are placed in larger holding cages until they can be moved to a more suitable environment. While waiting for this to happen, we get acquainted with these majestic creatures. My favorite? Colo Colo, a huge angry lion who lunges at Creamer one day, then calms down when she gives him a drink from a watering can. I also fell in love with the mother lion and her cubs.

Even when a huge area of land in Colorado is found for the lions, suspense still fills the air. How will it be possible to transport 25 wild lions in a cargo plane from Santa Cruz to the Denver International Airport? The wonderful cooperation between so many people on two different continents simply boggles my mind. Much more happens in the Denver area before I breathe a sigh of relief as Colo Colo and the other lions are finally released into a 20-acre grassland area where they can live and play together.

For me, Lion Ark is the feel-good movie of the year!

(Released by ADI Films; not rated by MPAA.)

NOTE: The U.S. premiere of Lion Ark is scheduled for October 5, 2013, at the Mill Valley Film Festival in Mill Valley, California.

For more information about this supberb documentary, please go to www.LIONARKTHEMOVIE.COM. 

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