Elephant (2020)


Elephant (2020)

African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo set out on an epic journey with their herd, traveling hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert, from the Okavango delta to the Zambezi River, just as countless generations of their ancestors have done before. Shani and her family are among the last elephants on earth to make these lengthy migrations. She's mother to wide-eyed, one-year-old Jomo, who has yet to experience a migration, and at 40 years old, she is next in line as herd matriarch, a position currently held by her older sister Gaia. Gaia's herd is among countless species - from hippopotamus to lechwe to baboons - that rely upon the life-giving water that flows from the mountains and transforms the heart of the desert into a green oasis known as the Okavango delta. But the season's end is near and soon there will be a mass exodus. Nothing on Earth is more precious to life than water. And perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the Kalahari desert in southern Africa, one of the driest places on the planet. The water is receding and paradise will soon turn to dust as the delta becomes a series of vanishing pools. Gaia instinctively knows she must lead the herd directly into the baking Kalahari desert, before the remaining water holes dry up. The herd's success will depend on her experience and wisdom, which has been handed down over many generations. Just as the saying "an elephant never forgets" implies, these massive mammals have a deep connection to their past. Gaia will take her family down ancient elephant paths, networks of lines and circles - the circles being water holes the family will desperately need to cross the vast desert. Along the way, they'll seek nourishment from sources such as moisture-rich mopane leaves and baobab tree trunks filled with rainwater. As they near their destination, the herd must cross the mighty Zambezi River to reach the safe haven for which they've been searching. They must enter the shallows, where crocodiles prey upon elephant calves like Jomo, and fight a ferocious current that could draw them into the world's greatest waterfall, Victoria Falls. Fortunately, the herd has the strength and stamina to succeed and can rest while enjoying unlimited water and all the palm nuts they can shake from the trees. But within a few short months, food is scarce and the water begins its voyage back to the Okavango delta. The family must traverse the wilds of Africa, yet again. The march back to the delta will be no easy task, as the Angolan flood waters are early this year and the herd will need to make quick time. However, the emotional bonds between elephants are as strong as those between humans and the strength of family has gotten them this far. Together, Gaia, Shani, Jomo and family dare to take the shortest route - through lion country.
IMDb   7.2 /10
Metacritic   61 %
TheMovieDb    7.8 /10
FilmAffinity   7.2 /10
Director Mark Linfield
Director Vanessa Berlowitz
Director Alastair Fothergill
Writer Mark Linfield
Writer David Fowler
Release Date2020-04-02
Runtime1h 26min
GenreDocumentary, Adventure, Biography
Content RatingG (G)
AwardsAwards1 win & 1 nomination
Narratoras Narrator

Elephant (2020 film)

Elephant is an American nature documentary film about elephants directed by Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz and narrated by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. It is the fifteenth nature documentary to be released under the Disneynature label. The film was released alongside Dolphin Reef as a Disney+ exclusive on April 3, 2020.


In The Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, many African elephants prepare to migrate from their home to a grassy paradise.

The Herd is led by their great matriarch Gaia and her younger sister Shani, who has helped keep their family safe. Shani has also been raising her spirited son Jomo, a very energetic young elephant who just wants to play with the other animals, such as lechwes and baboons.

When the land is about to dry up, Gaia leads the elephants to an almost dry waterhole to enjoy the mud before leaving the desert. They are soon joined by other elephants who visit, play, and drink from the water. When the water dries up, Gaia notices a baby elephant suffocating and stuck in the mud, so she goes to its rescue, and the baby is reunited with its mother.

The herd leaves the desert to join the other elephants on the long journey, they take a lunch break to have a family reunion with other herds of elephants, with some not seeing Gaia for over a year. Jomo starts making new friends with the other baby elephants, and for ages, Shani reunites with many of her long lost cousins. Gaia's herd and other herds of elephants have no luck trying to find food, but a male elephant (who is visiting his family) uses his trunk to drop a bunch of seedpods from trees. Everyone munches happily.

Gaia's herd comes across ancient paths that their ancestors created when they migrated. When they've reached a dry waterhole, they noticed an elephant skeleton. Shani shows a confused Jomo a life lesson. The herd moves on and finds another waterhole (this time with water). As the elephants drink, Jomo plays with a group of warthogs. The water is ruined by its previous visitors, so the elephants munch on Mopani trees but are chased off by caterpillars eating the entire trees.

The Herd continues their journey to a small little island. There is no water for them to drink, but Gaia leads her herd to Baobab trees which they could drink water from its sap. Shani teaches the young elephants how to get sap by ripping the thick bark. The Herd rests on the island for the night.

Continuing their journey, the Herd trudges through sand storms. Shani and Gaia sense the ground trembling, which meant a river close by, but they are despaired when they reach the river. It is far below the cliffs where the elephants are, but thanks to the help of a flock of Quelea birds, the herd makes their way to Victoria Falls, the place that Gaia has been searching for. The Herd happily drinks, but are soon confronted by crocodiles. Luckily no one was hurt when they crossed the river. They reach the islands, and The Herd enjoys their times in Victoria Falls and even munch on palm nuts.

Meanwhile, in the highlands of Angola, rain starts to pour, which means the water is going off to the Okavango Delta, Shani and Jomo's home.

Soon after, Gaia starts to get tired and weak and finds the food hard to eat. She and The Herd start making their way back to Okavango. Shani helps Gaia gather the herd, with Jomo by their side. Gaia realizes that the Angolan falls are early, and she and Shani immediately gather the herd to use the shortest route, but they soon find themselves confronted by a pride of lions. As the elephants settle in for the night, the lions attack Jomo, but he is saved by Shani. But by morning, Gaia dies, with the herd sharing a mournful goodbye to their matriarch, while the lions share their feast. Shani finds her leadership to the other elephants difficult. A week later, an elephant gives birth to a newborn baby calf. Jomo is unimpressed, but soon lets go of being the baby of the family and warms up to his new playmate.

Shani soon uses Gaia's memories, and begins to lead the herd back to the Delta. They are soon confronted by a rival herd of elephants, who are going after the newborn calf. Shani stands her ground at the rival matriarch, and the rivals retreat. They make their way home to Okavango, where the land is bursting back to life. The Herd soon accepts Shani as the new matriarch, while Jomo teaches the newborn calf how to play with the other animals.

Critical response

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81%, based on 27 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The website's consensus reads, "Disneynature: Elephant adds to the studio's tradition of kid-focused, beautifully photographed nature documentaries that are just engaging enough for parents." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Elephant received positive reviews, Common Sense Media rated the movie 4 out of 5 stars, stating "Parents need to know that the nature documentary Elephant is appropriate for all ages, but some viewers may find it a little slow-going. The filmmakers confront that by introducing new dangers for the elephants, creating moments of suspense throughout the film. These scenes include possible drowning, predators like lions and hyenas, a baby elephant with his head stuck in the mud, and more. Some could be scary/upsetting for certain viewers, especially when the youngest elephants are put at risk. But the elephants always come through the scares intact until near the end of the film, when one matriarch dies of old age. It's a tender scene as the herd gathers around her and feels for her last breath with their trunks, covering her eyes with her ear when she's finally gone. Some viewers, though, may feel uneasy knowing that her body will likely be attacked by surrounding lions as soon as the herd moves on. Likewise, narrator Meghan Markle makes clear that while this herd has survived its perilous journey, not all do". VanityFair praised the movie and Meghan Markle's performance, stating "It’s a solid nature movie, not quite factual enough to be a true work of scientific observation, but engaging and persuasively conservationist in its subtle way. But the real showcase here is Ms. Markle, of course".