Tyke Did Not Die In Vain

Stefan Moore and Susan Lambert, the filmmakers behind TYKE ELEPHANT OUTLAW, discuss social justice storytelling,  the tragedy at the root of their research and our deep and mysterious bond with other species.


Stefan Moore has been a producer/director and executive producer of documentaries in the USA, Britain and Australia. His documentaries have received four Emmys and numerous other awards. Recent films include the award-winning feature documentary Tyke Elephant Outlaw, Mysteries of the Human Voice, and The Cars That Ate China

Susan Lambert ’s award-winning film and television work has been broadcast and distributed in Australia and internationally. Recently she directed episodes of “Outback Coroner” for the History Channel and “My Big Fat Bar Mitzvah” for ABC. Susan’s films have been screened in major international film festivals including London, Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, New York, Cannes, Oberhausen, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Tynside, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.


Tyke Elephant Outlaw is showing at Georgetown University on Friday, March 18th at 6pm

The screening is free, but reservations are required. Reserve here.


DCEFF: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

STEFAN MOORE and SUSAN LAMBERT: We became involved with filmmaking through our love of the medium coupled with our social and political concerns.  Susan’s early ground breaking experimental films looked at women’s control of their bodies and the role of women in society.  Stefan’s work has focused on the treatment of the poor in the criminal justice system, the plight of undocumented workers, and global inequality in the delivery of medicine.  Both of us see Tyke as an extension of our concerns for social justice.

DCEFF: What drew your attention to this project?

SM & SL: We came across the Tyke incident while researching a film about animal law. Tyke’s story immediately grabbed our attention because it embodied so many of the issues that we were concerned about and because there was an extraordinary amount of archive from the time. The incident was covered by four TV stations and extensive home video, and most of the people involved, including eye witnesses, circus industry insiders and animal activists, still vividly recalled what happened.  Because the story was so layered with contrasting perspectives, we did not set out to make an animal rights campaign film but wanted to explore our deep and mysterious bond with other species.

DCEFF: What challenges did you face in the process of producing this project?

SM & SL: When it came to talking with those who actually knew Tyke we were not prepared for the level of resistance and antagonism we would encounter.  Twenty years after her rampage in Honolulu the topic of Tyke remains taboo within the secretive America circus industry.  More than any other incident of its kind, Tyke polarised the debate over wild performing animals and heightened the industry’s hostility towards the animal rights movement.  In the course of our research, the mere mention of Tyke’s name was often enough to get doors slammed in our faces.  It was, therefore, all the more remarkable to find those brave individuals prepared to speak honestly about Tyke and life in the circus.

Another major challenge was tracking down the rights to some of the key archival footage in the film.  Few records were kept of the original home video that was used in news reports at the time.  Further complicating matters, we discovered that some of the most important footage was filmed by a Japanese tourist who had long since returned home to Japan.  After months of painstaking investigation, our Japanese researcher finally located the tourist who, to our amazement, also had a treasure trove of unseen material that became a vital storytelling element in the film.



DCEFF: Why do you think that DCEFF is important? Why should people attend?

SM & SL: DCEFF is one of the oldest and most prestigious environmental film festivals with an impressive list of sponsors.  The festival screens an extraordinary range of important films at a time when environmental issues are of urgent concern.


DCEFF: How does your film relate to this year’s theme: Parks, Protecting the Wild?

SM & SL: The use of wild animals in captivity for human entertainment is an issue that has been of growing concern in recent times.  Over 30 countries around the world have now banned the use of wild performing animals and, even in the US, it will soon become a thing of the past.  The question is now, where to put these animals and how to care for them.  As we think Tyke Elephant Outlaw makes clear, sanctuaries are the only humane answer to protecting those species that can no longer be placed back in the wild.


DCEFF: Why do you feel that it’s important to preserve parks and/or protect wildlife?

SM & SL: We have to protect and live in harmony with other non-human animals or we will not survive as a species.


DCEFF: How do you hope audiences will receive your film?

SM & SL: We hope that audiences will come away with a better understanding of why wild animals such as elephants do not belong in captivity.  We also hope that they will have compassion for those who took part in the circus industry but now have regrets about what they did.


DCEFF: What’s the one takeaway that you want potential viewers to walk away with?

SM & SL: Tyke did not die in vain.  Her great legacy is the global movement to stop the use of wild performing animals.



Register for the Tyke Elephant Outlaw screening here.

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