It was a day many will never forget.
Terror in the streets of kakaako more than two decades ago, after Tyke the elephant killed his trainer, then broke out of the circus at the Blaisdell Arena.
What followed was frightening hunt through the city streets, that ended with the animal being shot dead in a hail of police gunfire.
Now a film on Tyke, and that day is set to debut here this weekend.
It’s a scene that generated both fear, and great sadness.
It was August 20th, 1994.
Nearly 21 years later, it remains etched into the minds of many who called Hawaii home at the time.
“Our community was traumatized and it wasn’t just the death of this amazing intelligent animal, it was a community to this day still suffering from what they saw” said U.S. Humane Society Inga Gibson.
Saturday and Sunday, the terrifying incident will be relived in front of movie goers at the Hawaii International Film Festival in the documentary “Tyke Elephant Outlaw”.
The film tells the story of Tyke, a circus elephant who went on a rampage in Honolulu in 1994, killed her trainer in front of thousands of horrified spectators, and died in a hail of gunfire. Her break for freedom traumatized the city and ignited a global battle over the use of animals in the entertainment industry.
The film includes archival footage of Tyke’s rampage and breakout from the circus onto the streets of Kaka`ako that everyone who lived in Honolulu at the time will vividly remember. The film is directed and produced by Australian documentary filmmakers Susan Lambert and Stefan Moore, and co-produced by Megan McMurchy.
Filmmaker Susan Lambert says, “like the classic animal rebellion film King Kong, Tyke is the central protagonist in a tragic but redemptive drama that combines trauma, outrage, insight and compassion.”
This documentary is 21 years in the making but for a lot of people the wounds are fresh.
“Oh I think they are and it’s interesting to see what the reaction is going to be at the screenings,” said filmmaker Stephan Moore.
Filmmaker Stephan Moore says he never intended to drive a campaign about animal rights. But in watching what happened, frame by frame, that’s what it became”.
Featured in the film are those who knew Tyke during her tragic life in the circus, witnesses to her rampage and killing on the streets of Honolulu, and animal welfare activists for whom Tyke’s death became a global rallying cry.
“My first encounter with Tyke I walked into the barn she had turned ears And picked up a bail of hay and threw it at me and I thought, uh oh.” — said a man in the film
“We were in credibly swayed emotionally and psychologically by her experience and I think the audience will identify with that,” said Moore.
For animal rights activists the timing couldn’t be better.
Next week the state’s Department of Agriculture begins a series of public hearings aimed at banning all exotic and performing animals acts in Hawaii.
Governor David Ige already pledged his support but supporters want to see it become law.
“Yes, we want to see it in black-and-white,” said Gibson.
Gibson says passing a law banning animals acts here will ensure Tyke’s death wasn’t in vain.
“The main thing is they keep them chained up 22 hours a day, most of their lives. Elephants are incredibly social animals and they have huge family structures they stay together their entire lives so that’s probably the cruelest part of it,” said Moore. “All those who encountered Tyke related to what happened to her in different ways, yet each has a profound and abiding connection to her. Over 20 years after the harrowing events in Honolulu, the global battle over the use of wild animals in entertainment is Tyke’s great legacy.”
If the governor ultimately signs off on the exotic and performing animal ban, Hawaii would be setting precedent in becoming the first state in the country to do so.
Indiewire calls it “tragic and unforgettable.” The Portland Film Festival honored it with “Best Documentary.” Now Hawaii audiences have a chance to see a movie that features a tragedy many here won’t soon forget: the shooting of Tyke the circus elephant.
Tyke Elephant Outlaw received awards and critical acclaim at major international film festivals in the US, UK and Australia. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a highly intense film…cautionary and moving.”
Tyke Elephant Outlaw is screening at the following times and dates:
– Saturday, November 21 at 8:30 p.m. at the Dole Cannery Theaters
– Sunday, November 22 at 12 p.m. at the Dole Cannery Theaters
– Sunday, November 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the Koko Marina Theaters
More at tykeelephantoutlaw.com.