Animals big and small deserve a life of freedom and compassion. Actress Ashley Bell knows this and as a lifelong animal lover, she’s set out to document the story of Asian elephants in a new film, Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story.

LOVE & BANANAS

Come with us, and embark on a daring 48-hour mission 500 miles across Thailand to rescue a 70-year old captive blind Asian elephant and bring her to freedom. loveandbananas.com

Posted by Love And Bananas on Wednesday, 14 February 2018

 

Having already been a successful actress, known for her roles in The Last Exorcism and for her debut on Broadway in Machinal, Ashley had her heart set on helping animals.

To do this, she assumed the role of director, writer, and producer in her new film Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story.

We sat down with Ashley to discuss her new film, what inspired her, and how she hopes this film will not only spur people to take action for Asian elephants but also help them relate to animals they might not otherwise connect to.

 

Who or what inspired you to get involved with animal protection? Tell us a little bit about your veg story.

I’m one of those rare lifelong vegetarians. My parents actually raised me vegetarian. They had started doing research into the most healthy diets for a newborn baby and for both the nutritional benefits but also the ethical ones, my parents raised me veg. I was brought up without all of the added hormones present in animal products. They found I didn’t get sick as much as my classmates and that I could get all of my protein and nutrients from plants – just like elephants and cows, who happen to be giant vegans!

 

What inspired you to work on this particular documentary?

Well, even though I feel the sang gets said a lot, it is a ‘passion project’. It’s something I worked on for five years. When I got the email that it was possible to rescue two elephants and have them sent to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, it hit me to my core. I knew I had to go down there and tell this story and get the plight of the Asian elephant out on a bigger platform. And to be able to tell the story of Lec, the incredibly brave woman on the front lines was an incredible honor.

 

What were the biggest challenges and most rewarding parts of working on this film?

Oh wow, umm..do you want the hourly play by play or…? I mean, I say that as a joke but in all honesty, I wanted to make a film that put the power in the viewer’s hand. That no matter where you are in the world you can take one action that can make a difference – either to help elephants or to help an animal you share the world with.

Of course, there were challenges. Our cameraman got chased by an elephant and my co-producer was kicked in the shin by one. When you’re trying to transport an 8,000lb elephant across Thailand and document that entire experience there’s going to be difficulties. But it’s all part of the adventure that we took and I think it makes for a powerful and emotional and action-packed story.

 

What do you hope the audience will take away from your film?

I hope people aren’t paralyzed by what they see, and I hope they find that even if they make just one action that they did something. It’s about making the choice to actually do something – that’s huge and people should be proud of that.

In launching the film, it was incredibly important to me that we also launch an Impact Center, where people can take four quick and easy actions. We set up a hub where people can sign a humane travel pledge to donate to Lec’s wishlist. Also key is education, which means we have shareable resource kits.  Lastly, if the film isn’t playing in a theatre near you, you can actually bring it to you – we have a whole team designated for that type of grassroots outreach.

I have to say, a lot of the work Animal Equality does I’m blown over by. The undercover frontlines work they do to break out that information is groundbreaking and that’s the most important thing – that once that information is out there, you can never put it back in. I’m so inspired by the courage and dedication to giving a voice to those animals.

 

Do you think this film will help people make a connection with animals they may not care as much about – such as farmed animals?

Yes, I do, because I feel that every year things are getting easier.  It’s about dispelling the myth that animal rights is difficult or hard and making it accessible, cool, healthy, convenient, and showing people that just a few simple mental adjustments can go a long way. People are starting to realize that they don’t have to completely change their lives overnight to make a difference in the lives of any animal.

 

The film was released in 22 theatres on April 22nd, which was Earth Day. Was there a particular reason for this?

Well, it was just perfect timing really – I love connecting things to relevant events. I’m often asked why I care about animals like I need to justify why I give a damn. But a simple answer is that elephants are keystone species. They provide food, shelter, and stimulate the environment for hundreds or thousands of other species. In many ways, elephants are linked to combating climate change. When they trek through the jungle they’re carving our paths and dropping seeds. These animals and the Earth are immensely connected.

 

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people who may just be starting out on their plant-based journey?

You need to reward the mental commitment you’re making along the way and be sure to forgive yourself. If the process is a journey, and you’re working every day to get to your goal, you need to reward yourself and avoid punishment. It’s key to have patience with yourself. And try not to feel overwhelmed. A lot of the footage you may see is difficult to watch but know that you’re taking steps to make a difference. And take baby steps – it’s important to pace yourself. Try replacing just one meal a week or even a month, whatever you feel comfortable with and feel confident in that change you’ve made.

 

Where can people find out more about the film and showings near them?

Great question! Fans of the film can visit LoveAndBananas.com, where they’ll be able to find a screening near them and if one isn’t happening near them, they can even contact us to get a screening brought to a theatre near them! I also always ask people to visit the Impact Center on LoveAndBananas.com, where they can take four different actions to help animals.

 

We are beyond excited to see this film! It tells an important story about an animal in need and will help people connect to the animals they see in their everyday lives. Check it out in a theatre near you and share this incredible story with your friends and family!