Films by DiCaprio, ex-Putin aide on illegal ivory trade eye Oscar.
Paris: Hollywood heartthrob and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio is competing for another Oscar against an unlikely rival — a former top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The critics are touting DiCaprio’s The Ivory Game, about Africa’s illegal ivory trade, for a prestigious Academy Award in the documentary film category along with a film on the sames ubject by Sergey Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin’s best-known spokesman in the West for more than a decade.
The silver-haired ex-diplomat spent most of his working life deflecting media criticism as Putin’s spokesman on Chechnya and special envoy to Brussels, and earlier as the Kremlin’s mouthpiece under the late Boris Yeltsin.
Now, Yastrzhembsky is trying to cause a stir with his Ivory-A Crime Story, which names and shames top ivory buyers such as China, the Vatican and Buddhist monks in Thailand.
It highlights how the population of elephants in Africa has dropped to less than 500,000 from 1.5 million in last 30 years and every 15 minutes an elephant is slaughtered by poachers for its ivory.
The price of ivory soared to $3,000 a kilo from $6 some 35 years ago, according to the documentary.
If nothing is done, conservationists say the African elephant could be extinct in the wild within a generation.
“We can only hope that this film will get the world to paymore attention to this sad situation regarding elephants in Africa,” Yastrzhembsky said in Paris.
His documentary, took three years and cost $1 million to make, won prizes this year at the Montreal, Rome and New York film festivals. Harsh scenes include one of an elephant being shot and moaning as it is hacked to pieces by poachers.