Seychelles wildlife adventure on the big screen! 'Aldabra - Once upon an island' in 3D to be premiered this November
After gathering 30 hours of footage on location on the Seychelles atoll of Aldabra, Starlite pictures is ready to premiere its newest family entertainment movie, 'Aldabra - Once Upon an Island'. (R Baxter/SIF)
(Seychelles News Agency) - They are used to freely roam around in the hot, dry and somewhat deserted landscape, while their marine friends swim around in the shallow lagoon or come to nest on the beach of one of the Seychelles most far-flung atoll.
In less than two weeks’ time though, Aldabra’s giant tortoises, black-tipped sharks, sea turtles, along with crabs, birds and others will be the starring in the newest 'family entertainment' to hit the big screen.
The amazing features and vast array of flora and fauna of the atoll mainly explored and studied by scientists and researchers from various parts of the globe will become available for all of the world to see.
‘Aldabra – Once Upon an island’ is the title of the 73-minute film that is scheduled to be premiered in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on November 19, 2015.
The people behind the initiative are aiming to take viewers on a journey around this second largest atoll in the world, also a protected nature reserve which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
Elvi the giant tortoise, Tory the sea turtle, robber Buster the giant crab, are only a handful of the main 'actors'.
|Above: A pair of giant Aldabra tortoises (Neil Gelinas/National Geographic/YouTube) Photo License: CC-BY and below a mother turtle heading back to sea after nesting on Aldabra (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY A giant tortoise named Elvi and sea turtle named Tory are two of the main characters in the movie.|
The inhabitants of the atoll comprising of Aldabra’s endemic giant tortoises which is far greater than the 93,000-strong human population of the Seychelles, terrestrial crabs, black-tipped sharks, sea turtles and manta rays among others will in fact be the only stars in the movie, featuring no human characters.
The remote atoll of Aldabra, comprised mainly of the larger islands of Ile Picard (West Island), Polymnie, Malabar Island (Middle Island) and Grand Terre (South Island) is located in the westernmost part of the Indian Ocean archipelago, some 1,100 kilometres from the main island of Mahé.
According to Czech businessman Petr Keller, who is also the producer of the film, the idea to shoot a movie in the Indian Ocean archipelago dates back to around 10 years ago.
Keller founded Starlite Pictures in 2000, the same film and television production house that is behind the making of the film on Aldabra.
|The remote atoll of Aldabra, is located in the westernmost part of the Indian Ocean archipelago, some 1,100 kilometres from the main island of Mahé. Shooting for the film was done in 2012. (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
“Back in 2005 I decided to shoot a movie in Seychelles. I asked my dear friend Ernest Pindur [Seychelles Honorary Consul to the Czech Republic who died in 2014], who lived there, what would be the place. He said without hesitating “Aldabra”. I said well let’s go there but it took several years to proceed with the shooting license etc,” Keller told SNA in an email interview.
It was only 6 years later however that the idea started to become a reality when Keller and company obtained their license to shoot the movie. The crew moved on location in 2012 gathering 30 hours of raw footage.
The long hours of footage Keller explains is what is required when shooting a 3D movie, which is expected to enhance the viewers’ experience of the wildlife of Aldabra.
“In 2011 when we got the license to shoot the movie, our film director Steve Lichtag developed a special 3D camera rig and we decided to shoot cinema movie in 3D like IMAX does. But after the script had been finalized together with US writers Don Hahn [Lion King and many other movies including Disneynature movies], Kirk Wise [Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and others] and David Reynolds [Finding Nemo and Disneynature movies and many more] our movie had changed from documentary to the Family Entertainment genre.”
|Above: The Aldabra Rail (Janske van de Crommenacker) Photo License: All Rights Reserved and below: A group of black-tipped sharks gather in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY Only Aldabra's wildlife will be starring in the movie.|
According to the film’s website the making of what was originally planned as a documentary on Aldabra also comprised of an interview with Seychellois Captain Francis Roucou, the skipper of the Indian Ocean Explorer, who was hijacked by Somali pirates along with six other crew members in March 2009.
Roucou and crew were on their way to the Seychelles main island of Mahé after dropping a party of tourists at Assumption, an island of the Aldabra group some 1,140 km Southwest of Mahé.
According to Keller a production crew of around 40 people have been involved in making the movie while locally they received the support of the Seychelles Island Foundation, a public trust established in 1979 which manages the Seychelles UNESCO Heritage sites of Aldabra and Vallée de Mai.
Scientists working on Aldabra at the time were also at hand to help.
Keller says ‘Aldabra-Once Upon an island’ which will be available in both 2D and 3D is aiming to entertain as well as educate viewers.
“Educate the audience in the entertaining way to show people how our planet is fragile. We are opening the window to the place where it’s almost impossible to travel, the isolated part of our Earth,” said Keller.
|Starlite pictures engaged a 40 men crew for the filming of the movie. (R Baxter/SIF) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
Following the premiere of the movie scheduled for November 19, 2015, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Keller told SNA that Starlite Pictures is expected to have the world premiere in Seychelles before going to other markets including the US and Canada and having a worldwide cinema release of the movie with France, the UK, Germany, Russia, China, Korea and Japan identified as the key markets.
Keller did not comment on the cost of producing the movie.
‘Aldabra-Once Upon an island’ will therefore be an opportunity for many environment and nature enthusiasts to get a feel of what it’s like to be on the atoll, which is often described as a once in a lifetime opportunity by the not so many people who have had the chance to experience the place.
|Youtube Video Aldabra - Once Upon an Island (2015) HD trailer (Youtube/Totalfilm.cz) Video License: All Rights Reserved|
A trip to Aldabra is considered the most prestigious prize of the local Eco-School competition winners and has since 2009 allowed dozens of Seychellois children and teachers to enjoy the unique biodiversity of the atoll, although the trip halted for five years because of the piracy threat in the region before resuming in April this year.
Cruises to Aldabra, also resumed in January this year following the sharp decline in piracy activities in the region.
Nevertheless, a trip to the far flung atoll remains costly, which is why there are efforts underway to have a visitor centre dedicated to the Aldabra atoll.
It was announced in November last year that British architectural firm Marks Barfield has been announced the winner of an international competition to design the centre which is expected to be based on the Seychelles main island of Mahé.
According to Seychelles Islands Foundation the project is still in the design phase.
“We are still working with Marks Barfield, the architectural firm, on the design concept and exhibition design. We hope that this will be completed by the beginning of 2016,” SIF told SNA in an emailed statement.