A night at Nat Geo Live: Gorongosa Reborn

On February 18th and 19th the Santa Monica College's very own Broad stage held a Nat Geo Live presentation hosted by Emmy Award-winning wildlife cinematographer and documentarian Bob Poole. The presentation, "Gorongosa Reborn", used visually stunning footage from Poole's 6-part PBS/National Geographic International series on Gorongosa National Park, with Poole speaking to the audience about the rebuilding of wildlife in the park at the heart of Mozambique - a country that had suffered immensely due to a 20 year civil war only ended in the 1990s. Poole spoke of his mission to conserve and rebuild the habitat of Gorongosa, making it clear how his passion for wildlife developed throughout his personal history.

The son of a Peace Corps director, Poole was raised in a very atypical lifestyle in East Africa. At seventeen he got his first big break into National Geographic where he worked with a film crew on a documentary about elephants. After attending an American University in Northern Virginia studying agriculture in the hopes of returning to Africa and managing a ranch, Poole’s next break came when he bumped into a camera-man for National Geographic while white water rafting in Wyoming. Offered a position on the crew doing audio, Poole moved to LA and audited classes at UCLA to learn about sound while living out of a tent in a friend's backyard. He worked on the sound stage at night and worked in construction during the day in Redondo Beach.

While his story sounds as fate had directed it, a lot of dedication and hard work was required. “It’s opportunities that happen, it doesn’t all fall into your lap, you have to work hard to get anything” said Poole.

From there he was a camera assistant for wildlife film crews for about a decade and before long he began using his skills to tell stories of his own. Said Poole, “I didn’t grow up with movies or television, I didn’t have this passion for film making or anything, I had a passion for adventure and in the course of that I got excited about telling stories and I learned the craft. But mainly it’s been about trying to inform people about things out there that we should know about and care about. So that’s why the wildlife thing became the focus of my career, because that’s what I cared about.”

While documenting and researching the wildlife in Gorongosa Park, the relationship with the elephants and lions became very personal to Poole. Each member of the wildlife families documented was named and the footage shown at the event captured each animal's personality. Poole said, “We really don’t give the animals enough credit for what they really are. They’re much more like us than we want to believe. They have the same feelings and desires but they just don’t speak our language. Hopefully in years to come we’ll start giving them more credit for what they really are.”

Poole continues to travel and present "Gorongosa Reborn" with Nat Geo Live to promote conservation of habitat and making space for wildlife.

Nat Geo Live has another upcoming event at the Broad Stage on March 31st- April 1st, 2016 at 7:30 PM called "The Hidden Life of Wolves" hosted by filmmakers Jim and Jamie Dutcher.