Kevin Richardson, the lion behaviourist who has crossed the divide between humans and predators, is the key man to the award winning film, White Lion: Home is a Journey, now on the local cinema circuit.
It is the culmination of filming work Kevin has been involved in over the years. Kevin and his animals have moved from the old Lion Park to a larger farm nestled just outside the Cradle of Human Kind, some 50 km North of Johannesburg called the Kingdom of the White Lion. He resides opposite the property where the animals are kept, and works closely with them on a daily basis.
He has come a long way since he was a toddler of three when he was breeding crickets under his bed and keeping a pet toad, Paddatjie. In the Johannesburg suburb where he lived he came to be known as "The Bird Man of Orange Grove"Â� due to his fondness of animals, small and large. As an adolescent he ran wild and later became a self-taught animal behaviourist who broke every safety rule known to man in his dedication to working with these wild animals.
He flouted common misconceptions that breaking an animal's spirit with sticks and chains is the best way to subdue them, adopting love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with predators. He got to know their individual personalities, what makes each of them angry, happy, upset, or irritated.
Kevin has used his unique relationship with these large predators to make documentaries and commercials while working at the Lion Park. Documentary producer Michael Rosenberg spotted Kevin's unusual abilities and decided to capture these special relationships on film, which kick-started off Kevin's documentary making career with Dangerous Companions, and other shows like Growing up Hyena.
Kevin has been involved in various conservation and research projects in the Okavango Delta and the Lydenburg district, resulting in another documentary on black leopard, In Search of a Legend.
The dramatic feature film, White Lion, took four years to complete. It details the life of a young white lion, Letsatsi, who against all odds survived to become a legendary adult white lion.
Subsequently the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAS) nominated White Lion for Best Cinematography, Best Music Score and Best Sound Design.
According to the legend of the Shangaan, white lions are the messengers of the gods, but it has been years since one has been seen in their remote African valley. When a white lion is miraculously born into that valley, a young Shangaan, Gisani, finds himself destined to protect this rare and magnificent creature at all costs. This young lion, Letsatsi, is cast from his pride and forced to embark upon a perilous journey of survival.
Close to starvation, Letsatsi befriends Nkulu, an older lion and together they learn how to survive in the harsh African wilderness. Gisani, who has practically adopted Letsatsi, takes a job as a tracker with a local hunter, who has his sights set on leading the hunt for this rare and magnificent white lion.
Gisani, guided by fate, believes that he must find a way to save Letsatsi. When Nkulu is killed by a farmer Letsatsi had to learn to hunt by himself and grew into a magnificent adult. But before he can take over a pride of his own, Letsatsi and Gisani had to face their greatest challenge, the trophy hunter who had no regard for legends and only valued rare skins and trophies.
John Kani, the well-known local actor, is the storyteller in the film, while AJ van der Merwe is the trophy hunter. Thabo Malema plays the role of Gisani and Kevin is the producer.
* In September last year Kevin's book, co-authored by novelist Tony Park, Part of the Pride: My Life among the Big Cats of Africa, was published and it is available at bookstores.
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