World-renowned documentarians Derek and Beverly Joubert have worked for more than thirty years to capture wildlife and their natural habitat, to strengthen our fascination with large predators and to encourage us to take steps to save them from the extinction they face.
Their passion, the communicator, over the decades has evolved into devotion, taking the form of the Big Cat initiative. Since 2009, together with National Geographic, they have been working around the central idea: big cats need big action. A long-term campaign that not only protects and raises awareness, but also funds research projects aimed at preserving the species of big cats, whose future depends on us more than ever.
Big cats are fascinating, they have such a unique presence, this feigned carelessness, this instinct that distinguishes formidable hunters. They are as beautiful as they are threatened, as strong as they are feared.
And soon they will remain only a distant memory, an imprint left in the history of our planet. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 26 species of large cats are now endangered. Our children and grandchildren may never know Asian cheetahs, snow leopards, Iberian lynx, Sumatran tigers, South African leopards or even African lions.
Beverly and Derek Joubert oppose this fatalism, which is unlikely to suit them, and continue to make great documentaries. We met them in 2021, on the occasion of the broadcast of their latest film, Jade-eyed leopardrebroadcast this month on National Geographic Wild as part of a collection dedicated to this pair of documentarians, “Les films des Joubert”, from Wednesday 1is from June to Wednesday, June 15 at 9 p.m.
Why did you decide to dedicate your career and your life to animals, and especially big cats? Do you find them particularly exciting, or has this life brought you to them?
Derek Joubert : We went into the bushes to try to understand each other and to understand this continent where we were born (Africa, approx. ed). And we were a little embarrassed to realize that in order to understand all this, we really needed to focus on large, iconic predators, and we obviously fell in love. We fell in love with each other and we fell in love with big cats. And then we realized that few creatures are equal to big cats.
Beverly Joubert : In conclusion, I think we could look at the last forty years as a reference study; every decade everything changes. First, as Derek said, we were very excited and excited about what we were shooting. But very quickly we discovered the atrocities to which this region and, of course, predators. We knew what we had to say. That’s why we launched the Big Cat initiative with National Geographic. Because in the two or three years that the film was made, almost 10,000 leopards were legally killed by trophy hunters. And we are talking only about the number of people killed legally … We quickly realized that it will not be sustainable and soon there will be no leopards on this planet. So the Big Cat Initiative gave us the opportunity to talk about big cats.
Derek Joubert : Beverly is right about the four phases of the first decade [de notre travail] was marked by love and celebration of these big cats, the second – outrage at what is happening to them. The third decade was dedicated to our commitment, and the last to the rescue of these cats.
All over the world, animals are now threatened by human activities: habitat loss, poaching, trophy hunting are a direct threat … How do you, as directors, find the right balance between the need for information and the need to warn the public? and the need to entertain him?
Derek Joubert : I think we are storytellers. Storytelling is quite natural for us. I think even if you have something important to say, you should say it well. It can be entertaining and carry messages. If there is no message, it is not very interesting. It’s just lions jumping for any prey. It really has to make sense to us, and I think the audience reacts to that kind of story.
Beverly Joubert : Absolutely. Conservation is at the heart of our films, but since we always gave ourselves two or three years to be on earth and shoot them, it allowed us to look into the personalities of our heroes. What you see on the screen is not an ordinary lion, leopard or cheetah. We choose to join you to the cheetah family. And living with them, so to speak, sharing their anxieties, we understand the enormous challenges they face every day. They have to survive in a changing environment, escape from other predators … So we manage to interest a very large audience.
Derek Joubert : And you know, nothing we shoot is invented or staged. in Jade-eyed leopardyou can see that this leopard has an individuality.
Beverly Joubert : She was really unique to us. We lived among leopards, and they all had amber eyes, and suddenly we saw the eyes of this leopard, oscillating between turquoise and jade. We caught our breath. We were thrilled, which is important so we can tell the story. Each of the 50,000 African leopards has a unique personality. That’s why we really need to protect them all now more than ever.