Gabriel Ponniah, Editor In Chief
ATX Screen Scene
From 1415 to 1578, Portugal enjoyed its Golden Age.
During this time, Portuguese explorers discovered an eastern route to India, and became the first European power to begin expanding into a colonial empire. The increase in expeditions through uncharted waters meant many young men never returned home to their mothers and daughters, giving sorrowful meaning to an old Portuguese word derived from the Latin for solitude. In Brazil, January 30th is dedicated to its uniquely melancholic tinge. That word, “Saudade,” is perhaps the only way to describe the situation of the last two Northern White Rhinoceros, mother and daughter, as they face the patient, unyielding approach of extinction.
Saudade brings us alongside filmmaker Sandra Duarte Cardoso to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where rhinos Najin and her daughter Fatu live with caretaker Zack and a 24-hour armed security detail. Poaching is a fact of life for conservationists, particularly in Africa. The inhumane greed which spurs the rich to covet rhino horns or elephant tusks has decimated many populations of endangered animals, and the “Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild)” Northern White Rhinos are one such species.
Through breathtaking photography, we see the pained solitude they live in, and we understand the unshakable bond between humans and nature through Zack’s unyielding dedication towards Najin and Fatu. As the film instructs on the horrors of poaching and its specific destruction wrought on Ol Pejeta, a series of headstones tell the tales of so many beautiful Northern White Rhinos brutally taken from this world in service of evil delights. It’s an affective scene alone, but the filmmakers’ use of sound and editing wring yet more tears from the audience.
Even still, Saudade manages a hopeful ending, as inspiring grins on young faces breathe hope into the future, that perhaps the younger generation might better preserve, better defend nature and our deep-seated bond with it. The feeling of saudade is principally a longing, but one which often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of said longing might never be had again. We may never again live in a world with Northern White Rhinos, and we are worse for it. But we may yet cling to the hope that future societies, armed with an awareness of and respect for the natural world, won’t incur such a senseless loss again.