While the television premiere date of a documentary that’s been playing on the festival circuit for nearly two years isn’t necessarily the hottest of news, when it’s a film as wonderful and as dear to my heart as One Lucky Elephant, I can’t help but mention it. My deeply personal reactions to film that center on animals (particularly documentaries) are well-known – in short, I am almost guaranteed to cry. One Lucky Elephant made me cry more consistently than any other film (animal-centric or otherwise) that I’ve ever seen. It is a lovely, moving story – but more than that, it also tackles a very controversial subject.

The film centers on circus producer David Balding, a man who has spent his entire life (personal and professional) wanting his own elephant. When Balding acquires orphaned baby elephant Flora, he thinks that his dream has finally come true, a dream that will allow him to save Flora and provide his circus with a superstar performer. But after years of working the circus, Flora develops a number of behavioral issues that make it clear that she’s not happy, to the point that Balding makes the decision to retire her, a decision that means the two will no longer be together. While this would seem to be a simple enough plan – give a still-young Flora to a zoo or an animal preserve, One Lucky Elephant reveals how incredibly difficult it is for someone to give away an elephant, even with the best of intentions.

The film has been playing on the festival circuit for awhile now (I first saw it back at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival), but Cristina Colissimo and Jordana Glick-Franzheim’s film is finally getting a television premiere. Thanks to the OWN Documentary Club (on Oprah Winfrey’s network, a bit of a cinematic spin on her famous Book Club), One Lucky Elephant will debut on OWN on December 1, 2011 at 9PM.

Winfrey’s doc club “aims to engage audiences in the same manner that Oprah’s Book Club significantly changed the reading habits of the country, and was created to spotlight cinematic documentaries that inspire and entertain.” Past films shown by the OWN Doc Club include Crime After Crime and Miss Representation.

One Lucky Elephant is essential viewing for animal-lovers and those concerned with the dangers and intricacies of keeping wild animals in captivity. It’s also probably a good film for those who have invested serious cash in Kleenex.

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