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Filmmaker sides with the gorillas

Rough and Ready native Alexander Wolfe’s documentary about the relationship between an African tribe and mountain gorillas in sub-Saharan forest land will debut at the Nevada Theatre later this month.

“I’m excited to tell the story about a subject that has no history,” Wolfe said about the Ugandan Batwa tribe. “There’s no documentation on the Batwa.”

The Batwa people were evicted from forest land around 1990 to protect a dwindling mountain gorilla population.



Half of the world’s 700 mountain gorillas live in forests, Wolfe said. Human-linked problems of deforestation, disease and poaching from are suspected causes of the gorillas’ shrinking numbers, he said.

Wolfe’s film, “Land of Pygmy, Land of Gorilla,” premieres at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City. But it could reach a much broader audience if the BBC and the Discovery Channel pick up the film, as Wolfe hopes.




Wolf, now 22 and living in San Francisco, graduated in 2002 from Nevada Union High School and in 2006 from San Francisco State University. He spent about a month and a half in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Forest filming the documentary in the area where Grass Valley resident Dr. Scott Kellermann founded a medical clinic to help both the tribespeople and the gorillas.

The film captures how the Batwa feel about their plight, how their life was prior to their banishment from the forest, why the gorillas are important and how Kellermann’s efforts are helping the people, Wolfe said.

“This is pretty exciting for me,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe didn’t make the film as an objective documentary about how the Batwa were ordered to leave the forest land.

“I side with the gorillas,” Wolfe said. “The pygmies are able to choose their outcome. The gorillas don’t have a choice.”

When Wolfe finished filming, he had nearly 50 hours that needed to be cut to 45 minutes for a television documentary. The editing took him only a week, he said.

Along the way, Wolfe had significant help in creating the nearly $200,000 project, including Dick Arlett, a former Today Show producer who served as executive producer for Wolfe’s project. Wolfe’s family also knows Kellermann.

Kellermann, a Nevada City native, opened the medical clinic in Buhoma, Uganda, in 2000.

The Nevada Theatre screening, arranged by five area Rotary clubs, costs $20 and partially benefits the Kellermann Foundation. Wolfe and Kellermann will answer questions after the screening. Tickets are can be purchased in advance at the theater box office or at the door during the event.

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Know & Go

What: “Land of Pygmy, Land of Gorilla,” a documentary by Rough and Ready native Alexander Wolfe

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City

Cost: $20, partially benefiting the Kellermann Foundation

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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