St. John Film Society To Present “One Lucky Elephant” on May 6


David Balding with his “star of the circus,” Flora, an African elephant.

St. John Film Society (SJFS) will be screening “One Lucky Elephant” on Tuesday, May 6, at 7:30 pm at St John School of the Arts in Cruz Bay. 

“One Lucky Elephant” begins with circus producer David Balding’s realization that Flora, the orphaned African elephant he adopted and made the star of his circus, is tired of performing.

What unfolds is a nine-year odyssey to find Flora a good home. Caught between the human and animal world, Flora epitomizes the harsh reality elephants face in our expanding man-made world.

Balding dreamed of returning Flora to Africa, but as he learned more about the situation of elephants in Africa, where poachings take place even in protected reserves, he felt he’d better reconsider all the options. The problem is, there aren’t many good options for a mature elephant who’s lived with humans most of her life, and couldn’t fend for herself in the wild. 

Composer and co-producer Miriam Cutler, was the resident composer for Circus Flora. When she learned of David’s plans to retire Flora and send her back to Africa, she thought it would make a great film and reached out to her filmmaker friends.

In May 2000, producers Cristina Colissimo and Jordana Glick-Franzheim answered the call, raising $5,000 to film Flora’s final performance. Miriam convinced her friend and director Lisa Leeman to come on board. When Flora and David’s journey took a detour, so did the film. Part of the team had to move on to other gigs, so for the next eight years, Cristina and Jordana continued to follow and film Flora and David’s journey.

During this time, they became intricately involved in the search for a home for Flora, with Cristina arranging for Flora to temporarily relocate to Miami Metro Zoo, the zoo founded by her father.

With Flora’s future uncertain, Christina and Jordana co-founded, Ahali Elephants, a non-profit to provide for Flora’s wellbeing. By 2008, they raised the funds to relocate Flora to The Elephant Sanctuary. Once Flora was safe and sound, Miriam came back on board and Lisa cut a fantastic trailer that helped secure financing to finish the film.  Flora’s non-profit, Ahali

Elephants continues to provide for her endowment at the Elephant Sanctuary.

Through Flora and David’s story, the film raises questions about our complex relationships with animals, for which there are no easy answers.  One thing is certain: after watching this film, you will never look at an elephant in a zoo or a circus in the same way again.

SJFS will screen the film on Tuesday, May 6, at St .John School of the Arts in Cruz Bay at 7:30 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $5.

SJFS is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Virgin Island Council on the Arts and St John Community Foundation. For more information contact the St. John Film Society or