It was a pleasure sitting down with Jorja Fox on a park bench on a quiet Wall Street, near BSP Lounge, in Kingston on Labor Day to interview her about the new documentary she produced called "How I Became an Elephant." The documentary was one of the films screened in the first Kingston NY Film Festival.
Jorja Fox is a vegetarian so I wanted to know where she dined. Which Hudson Valley restaurants offer good vegetarian cuisine? Does she visit the Hudson Valley often?
"Wow! A gazillion places to eat which is so nice while you’re on vacation. I never had a car when I lived in NYC so this area is mostly a mystery to me. I came to the first Woodstock reunion, back in the 1990s so I knew I was in the general area, but I couldn’t tell you exactly where I was (laughs) I just got on the bus at Port Authority. Because of Astrid, we had a mutual friend in California, who invited me to come. For very strict vegetarian there is the Garden Café in Woodstock which is amazing," says Jorja Fox.
Jorja Fox enjoyed eating at two Kingston restaurants. "At Boitson's, I had these incredible vegan fried mushrooms, like oyster mushrooms, almost taste like calamari, and we also enjoyed DUO Bistro very much," adds Fox.
"How I Became an Elephant" tells the really sad and disturbing tale about the behind the scene story that most circus-goers and Thailand elephant trekking tourists don't know. Elephants are my favorite animals, and I knew about illegal poaching, but I had no idea about the torture these poor mammals go through at the hands of the mahmouts--elephant trainers. Baby elephants are ripped away from their moms and "broken" and repeatedly hit with and beaten in order to perform tricks for the tourist dollar. Many of the scenes of the abuse are hard to watch. (In fact, the young woman sitting next to me sobbed for half the movie!) I don't think I could ever go to a circus after seeing this movie now. Instead I would like to one day visit an elephant sanctuary in the US. Fox mentioned that there are only two right now, one in Tennesse and one in California. I will put those on my bucket list.
As a kid, Jorja Fox watched National Geographic every week with her progressive, environmentalist and wild life lover grandmother, never missing a show. When Jorja Fox met filmmaker Tim Gorski at a small dinner party in LA, they started talking about his work in Thailand with illegal wildlife trafficking, and she found a way to get invested with one of her passions, and later became the producer for "How I Became an Elephant" which stars a 15-year old animal activist Juliette West.
"I adore elephants for so many different reasons--their gentleness, intelligence. They are vegetarians. Like all of the really large land mammals, their habitats are in some of the most peril. They are a great subject because what’s going on with them is so criticial, so immediate. Elephants just have a grace and dignity to them," says Fox.
Fox said she had a lovely weekend in the Kingston/Woodstock area and was very excited to be part of the Kingston Film Festival, especially since it was the first screening of the film in her home state of NY, and also because she got to hang out with family while she was here.
Although the documentary will appeal to animal lovers of all ages, Jorja Fox and Tim Gorski agree that their target demographic is junior high school to college age viewers since the movie's lead is 15-year old Juliette West. Besides a couple of distribution deals on the horizon, they also plan a Netflix release, and hope to have screenings at high schools and colleges. If you are interested in viewing or screening "How I Became an Elephant" contact them throught the movie's website.