As experienced journalists, we have long desired to tell a story unique to Thailand, our home of 18 years. Having lived and seen the cost of Japan’s rapid economic development and witnessed a similar process here in Chiang Mai, we always knew that our documentary would convey a critique of the direction that the world was moving towards.
But what exactly? We never really knew until the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
In early 2020, when lockdown began in Thailand, we found ourselves stuck in Chiang Mai with our regular media contracts put on halt. It was a month of many sleepless nights, agonizing how to survive this challenging period. But during this time, we found ourselves reuniting with Saengduean ‘Lek’ Chailert, whom we have known since 2009.
From interviewing Lek, we learned about the horrific national plight of starving elephants and their unemployed elephant caretakers from the downfall of Thailand’s tourism industry. We were immediately drawn to this dire situation. But it was also Lek’s unchanged dedication as an animal rights activist, especially in the face of what was arguably her biggest challenge within her more than 20-year career.
Convinced that this was the story we were looking for, we obtained Lek’s full cooperation and decided to take full advantage of the time and space of the lockdown. We dove straight into filming her activities during the pandemic
Though the more we filmed, the more we began to see that this story was bigger than just Lek and her fight to protect elephants. It was really a story about the three types of exploitation in this world. One that exhibits the fragile structure of our modern capitalist civilization. Unspoken Souls became the documentary that we’ve long yearned to produce but could not until now.
-Yasuhiko and Mieko, Co-Directors of Unspoken Souls