“The Eyes of Thailand” Show Everything to Director Windy Borman – Part 1
One film that was very well received at the 2012 Las Vegas Film Festival is the heart wrenching and spiritually uplifting documentary “The Eyes of Thailand,” which was directed and produced by Windy Borman. Recipient of one of the 2011 ACE Film Grants from The Humane Society of the US, “The Eyes of Thailand” takes you on a journey with two elephant survivors who have lost their legs after stepping on landmines and are then given another chance to walk again using prostheses.
Windy captures the poignant story of Soraida Salwala as she struggles to help the two elephants Motala and Baby Mosha get the medical help they need in order to walk on their own legs again. Soraida has been a lover of elephants since childhood and recalls wanting to come to the assistance of an injured animal lying by the side of the road when she was only eight. She opened the world’s first Asian Elephant Hospital, a 200 acre facility that has treated over 3,500 so far, back in 1993 with the aid of the group she founded called Friends of the Asian Elephant.
Motala was injured in 1999 and after 10 years of surgery and rehab received the second and largest prosthetic 10 years later in August 2009. The elephant is now 50 years old. As for Mosha she stepped on a landmine in 2006 at the age of six months and received the first elephant prosthetic at the age of two in June 2008. Now six years old, she is able to walk under her own supervision.
Their story began when Windy met Soraida at the Elephant Hospital while she was in Northern Thailand for two months filming a theatre troupe. She visited the hospital and interviewed Soraida on camera for two hours before being introduced to Motala and Mosha. By the time Borman returned home she was hooked deciding to make two additional trips to Thailand during the next three years in order to conduct more interviews and capture some of the important turning points in the elephants’ recovery. In fact, Windy thought she was going to wrap the film after her second trip in August 2009 with a happy ending to the story, but then in 2010 when two more elephants were harmed stepping on landmines she decided to add more material about the new victims. Raising money with the help of friends and family she traveled to Vientiane, Laos and interviewed landmine experts at the first Cluster Munitions Convention. Windy also produced another documentary “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” which premiered in January 2012 at Sundance and will soon be seen on HBO along with several short films, but “The Eyes of Thailand” is the first feature-length film she has directed and produced. She describes directing this project as a whole new level of commitment and although she found the entire process as challenging as it was stimulating she explained, “One of the benefits of Pre-production is the time to brainstorm the film’s variables, the potential problems and find their solutions beforehand. However, each of the three film productions for “The Eyes of Thailand” happened so quickly that “Pre-production” basically included buying plane tickets and charging camera batteries. By the third trip, we knew what variables to expect, but one of the joys of shooting a cinema verité style documentary is you never know what you’re going to film until it happens. “
Recalling her attraction to the story she continued, “I began directing the film because I wanted to make the world a better, safer place, but along the way I’ve learned and re-learned the lessons of patience, acceptance and fortitude. These translate into all aspects of my work and my life”
Windy discusses more details about “The Eyes of Thailand” in Part 2 of her Filmmakers Notebook interview.