GILLES de MAISTRE – Writer/Director/Producer
As at ease with the pen as with a camera, Gilles de Maistre is an unusual filmmaker. He skilfully juggles audio-visual genres and shares his vision of the world on both the big and small screens as a writer, director, producer, reporter and globe-trotter.
Having directed some one hundred documentaries, films for TV and feature films, Gilles de Maistre has garnered numerous awards for his work across both mediums including The Albert-Londres Prize, International Emmy Awards, 7 d’or, Le Prix du Public and Prix Cannes Junior at the Cannes International Film Festival, The Special Jury Prize at the La Rochelle Fiction Festival and dozens of others throughout the world.
His world tour of births, Le Premier Cri (A New Born Child), released in theatres in 2007, was nominated for a César in the best documentary film category.
The idea for this new feature film came to him when he was making his “Petits Princes” series about the extraordinary relationships between children and wild animals.
The turning point in this Mia and the White Lion project occurred when he met Kevin Richardson while making the documentary “The Lion Whisperer”.
KEVIN RICHARDSON – Lion Behaviourist
Kevin Richardson is a world renowned wildlife conservationist and filmmaker, recognized by his persona as the ‘Lion Whisperer’. His mission is to highlight the status of the Africa’s most iconic predator, the lion, through his work in the media and alongside fellow campaigners, researchers and scientists.
Kevin was born on the 8th October 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He spent his childhood in the suburb of Orange Grove, far from the African bushveld he would grow to love. At around the age of 4, his love of animals manifested itself with the rescue of a baby bird he helped raise with his father. He soon became known locally as ‘The Bird Man of Orange Grove’ and began to take in many more waifs and strays.
As Kevin grew up, he planned to follow a career with animals and set his sights on veterinary science. However during his teens his focus was far from his studies and the young rebel was not accepted onto the course. He shifted his focus to zoology, before finally completing his BSc majoring in anatomy and physiology.
In 1998 he was given the chance to work with two lion cubs at a local lion park, who later became known as Tau and Napoleon. Here he honed his abilities and unique skills to work with lions in a hands on, interactive manner challenging many misconceptions, and was soon dubbed ‘The Lion Whisperer’ due to his extraordinary personal relationships with these prides of lions.
Although he started his career at a lion park that allowed cub petting for tourists, he began to understand the pitfalls of this industry, and never felt comfortable with the answers been given as to what ultimately happened to the lion cubs once they grew up. Like many of these parks in South Africa, once cubs grow too big to pet most potentially end up supplying the controversial ‘canned lion hunting’ industry.
Towards the end of 2011 Kevin made the decision to break ties with the park and moved all of the animals in his care to a new facility on the South East boundary of the newly formed Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve in Pretoria, South Africa. Here he implements a no breeding policy of lion cubs and has aligned his fight against ‘canned lion hunting’ with the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) and various other organizations such as Lionaid. His work contributes directly to Protecting African Wildlife Conservation Trust (PAWCT) which actively funds leopard and lion conservation.
His television work has been screened across multiple platforms worldwide, more recent examples include The Lion Whisperer (France 2 – highest rated show in the strand), The Lion Ranger series for Nat Geo Wild, Lions on The Move multiple channels, Lions, The New Endangered Species (GoPro – over 27 million views), Lion Whisperer (60 minutes USA – CBS – highest rating in 2 years with over 18.5 million Americans watching) highlighting the plight of dwindling wild lion populations and the horrors associated with cub petting and the ‘canned lion hunting’ industry. In June 2014 he launched his own YouTube channel Lion Whisperer TV introducing the world to his lions and work on a daily basis.
In March 2015 Killer IQ: Lion v Hyenas featuring Kevin and his animals premiered on the Smithsonian Channel and featured in their respected magazine plus other channels globally. Working with the world’s leading experts this ground breaking two part series will explore the cognitive behaviour of lions and hyenas. Kevin has also provided unlimited access to the sanctuary for Natalia Borrego (one of the experts in the series), to complete her PHD in lion cognition.
Kevin has taken part in many speaking events on lions and lion conservation and recently was an interviewed speaker at Google Zeitgeist, amongst influential speakers like former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and esteemed scientists like Dr Craig Venter (Responsible for DNA sequencing the human genome). His association with Australian Non-Profit Organization Painted Dog Conservation Inc. (PDC Inc.) helped to raise over $100 000 dollars at three separate speaking events in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in 2013. He’ll be fund raising for them again in June 2015.
Collaborations with world recognized artists and photographers help to raise awareness and funds for conservation. Fine art photographer David Yarrow is donating a percentage of his print sales of Kevin’s animals to TUSK, Britain’s leading African Wildlife Charity which features Prince William as its patron. New York artist Suzanne Unrein stunning impressionistic paintings featuring Kevin and his lions will go on auction this year to raise further funds for lion conservation.
Currently he is working on an ambitious land acquisition project, which will ultimately purchase land in wilderness areas throughout Africa where wildlife is threatened.