Last weekend villagers filmed a tigress being lynched near Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, bringing into focus the constant battle for survival between man and the wild. Oscar-winning filmmaker Ross Kaufmann’s Tigerland is also a blood-splattered, arresting exploration of how human and tiger territories overlap and collide. Named after the vast expanse of central, sub-continental and Southeast Asia where tigers once roamed, Tigerland ties the work of two passionate conservationists — Pavel Fomenko, head of Rare Species Conservation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Russia, and Kailash Sankhala, first director of India’s Project Tiger — across the decades.
The documentary shot by Kaufmann and Matt Porwoll goes beyond merely featuring the big cat as the muscled, beautiful hero of the jungle. Beginning with iconography of the tiger from various cultures — gladiators sparring with them to an excited Tigger from Winnie the Pooh — Tigerland traverses the vast Russian taiga before pushing back to the sepia-toned forest reserves of central India.
One happens in the now, following the urgency-filled work that Fomenko does for the conservation of the Siberian tiger that inhabits lands that hug the Sea of Japan. The other, follows the story of Kailash, who started one of the most successful conservation projects in history and the legacy of a life in the wild followed by three generations of his family.