Lion Spy Image

Lion Spy

By Josiah Teal | July 18, 2022

After discovering only 20,000 lions remain in the wild, writer and director Joni “Rogue” Rubin goes undercover in the dangerous world of big game hunting. A self-proclaimed “liberal vegetarian” Rubin crafts a fake ID and a new social media persona to infiltrate this elite community of trophy hunters. Using her alias and background as a photographer, she works her way hunt-by-hunt towards her goal of witnessing a lion hunt in person. Rubin’s chronicle of this quest, Lion Spy, is equal parts spy thriller and activist documentary, as the filmmaker treks through the African bush in search of answers. Answers to how our planet’s most iconic animal could be extinct within the next five years.

The film is primarily an exposé on the business of big game hunting. Focusing on Rubin’s birth country of South Africa, it has a personal feeling from start to close. Rubin gains the trust of pro-hunter Pieter Kriel, her travels across the globe, and her documenting each hunt, all showcasing the narrative of wild lion endangerment. This journey takes her to hunting shows, political meetings on trophy imports, and most of all, directly into the African bush with lions, elephants, and the people who kill them for sport.

Rubin’s footage of hunts and safari perfectly captures her mission’s essence. Lion Spy features beautiful footage of elegant giraffes, mighty rhinos, and majestic lions, all contrasted with gruesome violence as they’re killed. She carefully shows every kill, including the blood, skinning, and trophy pictures, to evoke emotions within the audience and enhance their information on conservation. The movie balances emotions and the filmmaker’s experience well, creating a powerful call to action at the conclusion.

“…an exposé on the business of big game hunting.”

The undercover aspect is fascinating. Rubin’s in the African bush witnessing the destruction of a species all while living as a persona foreign to her beliefs. The film conveys the theatrics of a lion “hunt,” and many boils down to little more than execution. The movie is a frontline investigative call for conservation, rich with soaring Savannah footage, placing this illustrious landscape as the setting for species extinction.

In an activist documentary such as Lion Spy, the pull to action and information presented is always paramount. The call to the audience is strong throughout; however, at times, the narrative is lost by the bureaucracy involved in trophy hunting. It is all crucial information, but it loses its heart in the lengthy segments of political history and legal proceedings. The film is most impactful and exhilarating when focusing on Rubin undercover, documenting the hunts and the psychology behind them.

Lion Spy is an excellent nature and activist documentary with Rubin’s sense of narrative and palpable tenacity permeating every frame. It has some missteps, but none detract from the overarching message of lion conservation. The filmmaker’s cinematic eye gives the proceedings a vision for the little details, enriching the conversation surrounding lion conservation with specific solutions. At its most decisive moments, this is a personal movie displaying empathy for the most awe-inspiring animals and the horrors that befall them.

Lion Spy (2022)

Directed and Written: Rogue Rubin

Starring: Joni “Rogue” Rubin, Dr. Paul Funston, Marnus Roodbol, Debby Tomson, Chris Mercer, Conor McCreedy, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Lion Spy  Image

"…a personal movie displaying empathy for the most awe-inspiring animals..."

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  2. Marie Sada says:

    Typical explanations of a hunter, I hate all hunters, can’t believe in this day and age that people hunt for pleasure, and wanting to hurt such beautiful and majestic animals, why would anyone want to keep a stuffed lion in your house!! I mean this thing about breeding lions, especially to hunt them, is so insensitive, lions have feelings and are very family oriented, they have seen you grow them up pet them, and then just shoot them as they are coming to you to be petted!!!! How cruel is that, I would like to shoot every hunter right between the eyes, and hope that he will remember my face, or put them in jail, put a lion in with him with nothing to defend himself with, and let him die seeing the last thing in his life, the face of the lion taking him out. We were put on this earth with all these beautiful animals to protect them, keeping them for future generations, but instead these hunters want to destroy everything. I’m not a violent person, but I hate and detest hunters, and wish them only bad luck and hope they die as soon as possible, it is all about money, once every iconic animal has been decimated, what then, will you start hunting people!!!

  3. John Nash says:

    What a lot of fictional cobblers, aimed at the Simba and Lion King snowflake audience. Undercover my foot – you can book a hunt at any time. The hunting fraternity are basically farmers (expect some non-PC language) and very old-fashioned about women, so she was under no danger whatever. She would be in more danger in parts of Brisbane, and I have heard what some Brisbanites have to say about Aboriginals, too, so why the unnecessary racial clips….
    There is no scientific evidence anywhere in the world that trophy hunting is affecting lion numbers. None. Wild lions are disappearing because they are lions. As the human population of Africa expands, there is no room any longer for dangerous predators outside the reserves. Wild lions live a life of Hell, and more than half of all cubs die before they are one year old, and half the adults are killed by other lions. When they become a danger to cattle or people, they are killed by pastoralists or villagers. Nothing to do with trophy hunting.
    Lion farmers in South Africa have raised 12,000 privately owned lions for petting, restocking, hunting, trophies, taxidermy and traditional medicines, etc.. Protected from other lions, they breed like white mice. Some farmed lions are released into huge paddocks (min 4000 acres by law) to be hunted as ferals. It doesn’t affect the wild population – farmers raise them and hunters harvest them.
    But then, Rubin’s other job is as an “intimacy coordinator” – she should stick with the dirty movies.

    • J Greene says:

      ‘But then, Rubin’s other job is as an “intimacy coordinator” – she should stick with the dirty movies.’

      You are pathetic.

  4. Lion Spy | Movie Menace – Wao Technology says:

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